My second baby will be 2 years old this March 15. Back in 2010, that was when I issued my first invoice for my business. Shortly after, I resigned from part time work to concentrate on Vixen Business Solutions full time. In my first year, the excitement of a start-up, finding my own clients, dictating my hours and thus, my income carried me through. The saying that the first year in business is the hardest (or is that marriage?) wasn’t true for me at all. The momentum carried me through all the way past year 1.
The past 3 – 4 months has been a struggle though. Family issues, losing one of my bigger clients and debt collection issues started to take its toll. It’s now up to the point where I have applied for jobs and have actually attended interviews. While there is nothing wrong with having a job, for someone in business it’s a death knell. It’s defeatist talk. It means giving up.
Luckily I came to my senses and realised that while I may work long hours, not get enough sleep and become absolutely obsessed with cashflow, there have been just as many benefits in working for myself. I have the privilege to take Meatball to school every day and most often be home in time to pick him up. I can also time my days off to coincide with Fruitman’s. To me, that’s worth putting up with no sleep and a few stress-induced grey hairs.
So, as Luke Skywalker had Yoda and Daniel-san had Mr Miyagi, I found me a mentor. Not so I can learn to wield a lightsaber or do the praying mantis kick (although that would be AWESOME), but so I can get some guidance with that I’m doing with my business. Someone that can help me focus when I deviate from my core values and get me back on track. Someone that I can be accountable for other than myself and call me out on things that I haven’t done that I said I would do.
Mentoring can cost an arm and a leg but luckily, the NSW Department of Trade and Industry (sorry if I got the name wrong guys, you’ve changed names so often I can’t keep up!) have an initiative called the Young Entrepreneurs Mentoring Program. For those of you sniggering at the back ‘cause you know how old I am, their cut-off is 35, ok? I still qualify with a few years left to spare. While there is still a small fee payable by the participant, the rest of the cost is subsidised by the government. You identify the issues you want to address and they partner you up with a mentor that can best help.
It’s difficult for me to ask for help. I blame it on being an only child that’s so used to doing everything on my own. It’s refreshing to be able to talk to someone about my ideas and get an honest opinion about whether it’s going to work or not. And so far, it’s going well. My mentor has given me feedback on some ideas that I’ve been working on and if they’re worth pursuing or not. Along with the one on one mentoring, we have weekly sessions that deal with business related topics such as drafting business plans, etc.
Has anyone else taken part in the program or have found themselves a mentor when they started out? Was it effective and what did you get out of it?
Update: Unfortunately, since I started writing this post, the funding for this program has been cut. My fellow participants and I are the last group that will take part. It’s such a shame because I think it makes such a difference.