In 2011, I officially departed from the corporate world where I had spent 15 years learning and growing. It was a safe, organized world, with structured growth and opportunities. My industry - finance - is lucrative, challenging, and professional. I was doing well and progressing rapidly. But I left. Why?
From some perspectives, it's because I'm off my rocker. I wouldn't necessarily argue. It doesn't seem sensible to release yourself from a sure thing in order to take on massive risk. Don't kid yourself - being an entrepreneur is a massive risk.
It was a risk I was, and am, willing to take. I contemplated the worst possible outcome. Could I handle it? Yes. I contemplated regret. Would I feel it if I didn't accept this challenge? Yes.
Those two answers got me where I am today, on a path that has wound in unexpected directions, with unexpected results.
Here are 5 things I learned along the way:
1. Your income will change. A lot.
5 years in, I'm still not making as much money as I was 6 years ago - net to me, that is. From a gross revenues perspective, I'm killing it. But after expenses and all that, I'm just a little behind. Had I stayed in the corporate world, my net would likely be about 3 times what it is right now, and my risk would be different.
Note that I said “different”. I didn't say “nonexistent”. As an employee, there's still risk. There's risk that the people running your company will screw up. There's risk that your department will be shut down. There's risk that you will be fired.
Those decisions that were out of my hands as an employee are firmly in my grasp as an entrepreneur. But I have other risks, such as the capital I've invested, the markets I'm working in, and the variability of revenue.
From an income perspective, why would I continue on this path? Because achieving this at 5 years makes sense to me. If revenues continue to grow at this rate, I'll be kicking Corporate Me’s ass (from a net income perspective) in another 5 years, and every year thereafter.
2. People will question your choices
As in, people you never thought would have an opinion. People who have zero investment in your success. You'll be able to brush them off.
What will really sting is when the people who are closest to you, who have invested the most in you, and whose opinions you really care about - they'll question you too. Deeply.
In year 1 or 2, when it all goes sideways (as it does), they'll be urging you to quit. The people you so badly want to believe in you, and often the people who count on you to be successful, will see your stress, your losses, your challenges, and they'll tell you to stop. Weirdly, it's because they care about you.
You'll feel desperately alone. And you will be alone. This isn't a road lined with cheerleaders. Despite what social media likes to tell us, it is not a non-stop champagne and Lamborghinis party. This is a dark forest, without any visible pathways. You're going to be tired, hungry, and - yes - by yourself.
If you stick it out, you'll find other travellers. You'll find nature laid out paths only you and they can see. You'll hear those people questioning your choices, outside of the forest, and you'll realize it's because they are worried about you, and they don't know how cool it is in here.
That's okay. It can be our secret.
3. Your support network is everything.
As an Admin Slayer founder, it's clear I believe in this. But why is it such a strong belief? After all that traveling alone through dark forests, do we really need a support network?
YES. God, yes. So much.
You need a couple of oaks you can lean on. You need somewhere to go for help when the skill set required isn't something you can do. You need people to talk to, people who can help you if you've started down the wrong path or if you need a second set of eyes on that mountain you're getting ready to climb. You need to know that there's someone willing to help you up if you fall.
One of the top reasons businesses fail is a lack of competence. Often the competence is in arenas you'd never intended to enter anyway. Law, tax, administration - that's probably not why you became an entrepreneur. Outsourcing those tasks correctly covers that first level of support you need.
Another reason for failure is incomplete vision. Mentors, champions, and coaches help us clarify and focus. They help us dream bigger, and push us out of our comfort zone. They remind us that we will be more than what we are right now.
Finally, a common reason for failure is lack of personal support. Everyone has a different level of requirement, but we've definitely found at Admin Slayer that we need support from our spouses, friends, and each other, in order to create success. It won't be everyone (see point 2) but it can't be no one.
4. You’ll get opportunities you never would have dreamed of
In addition to launching my own financial planning practice, I was able to co-found Admin Slayer with two fan-fucking-tastic people. It wasn't something I set out to do but it made sense at the time and is already surpassing expectations.
I'm now being approached to participate in other ventures with people I respect and admire. I'm having to be mindful of my capacity, my long-term vision and seek alignment.
As an employee, no one approached me about this kind of thing. Doors open all over the place when you climb a few mountains and conquer a few forests.
5. It’s totally worth it.
At least, I think it is. Ask me again in 5 years.