by Ginger Arboleda
A lot of us are still part of the workforce, most of us struggling every day to finally escape the rat race. I have been noticing, however, that a lot of people now see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Quite a few people I know have already tried their luck at starting their own businesses. There is an increasing number of start-up online sites and an influx of innovative products being created yearly. Some of them could not let go of the stability of employment so they entered a business, but did not quit their day jobs. The rest make the big leap out from their jobs. I, for one, am part of that latter group.
I was a banker for almost seven years. Honestly, I felt that I had a great job. Every day, I would wake up happy, as I went to work. I loved the new projects and the opportunities to shine that were given to me by the company. My husband teased me relentlessly about being a workaholic. Nevertheless, I resigned.last October.
From the time I graduated, I have invested sleepless nights, strained relationships, and sacrificed my health for the sake of building a career. I felt I was letting all of that go to waste. So what prompted this decision in the first place?
Let me cite some personal history: Around July that year, I found that I was pregnant. After a complicated first pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage, I decided that I had to take it easy – de-stress and prioritize the little one growing inside me. Of course, switching cold turkey will not work for me. So, I decided on becoming a work-at-home-mom. It sounded like an easy decision but it was a particularly difficult one for me to make. What finally pushed me to make that big leap?
Here are the reasons I knew I was ready:
I couldn’t see myself staying longer in the company. It wasn’t the workload. I could manage all of that and I was doing great. It wasn’t the boss; I was getting along with him just fine. In fact, I couldn’t wish for any other boss. It wasn’t the pay. I have been with the company long enough to get a pretty decent salary. It was just that every time I would see the Executive Vice Presidents and people from upper management, I just couldn’t see myself in their shoes. Deep inside, I knew that probably meant that the shoes I was meant to fill was not in the company I was currently working for.
I realized that being an entrepreneur is a passion! Even while working, I was able set up my own businesses. I would work on different “side lines” and entrepreneurial ventures during break time and when I got home from work. It inspired me to strive for more in all aspects of my life. I felt complete when I was doing things related to the businesses that I built, to the reputation I was slowly building.
I wasn’t scared of taking risks and eventually, taking this big risk. Going into business is risky. However, making investments always involves taking risks. Being employed in a bank made me aware of calculated risks. I was at a stage in my life where I already had responsibilities. My husband and I were expecting a baby at that time. Before I made that big decision, I had to go over all of our expenses (cost of living) and all of our earnings, including the possible earnings from my businesses, to see if we would still be able to pay our mortgage and all our other bills. It was a remarkably helpful exercise. If money is what you are worried about, I strongly suggest you go through this exercise. If you really want to start your own business, then you have to check what exactly you are risking. Are these risks acceptable to you? Do you really need that new iPhone? If you can cover all your basic expenses, where will your savings come from? Do you still have some left for a rainy day? Would you sacrifice some of that rainy day fund in the hope of rain-proofing your future?
I knew this wasn’t a gamble. You have to clearly understand what factors are in your control and what factors are not. Be realistic, even pessimistic, when it comes to this assessment. You have to assess what you have to do to drive the controllable factors. You also have to assess if you have what it takes to influence, however slightly, the ones that are not controllable. For example, in my case, I knew that supplier pricing is something that I wouldn’t be able to completely control. However, I know that I can build relationships and partnerships that will be win-win for me and the supplier – thus influencing price quotations of equipment, materials and supplies.
I was not afraid to fail. I wear my failed businesses like badges of honor. These range from annoying to traumatizing. I realized, though, that at the end of the day, I was still standing, I was still okay and that’s the worst that can happen.
I wanted to spend more time with my family and my soon-to-be-born daughter. My priorities changed when I learned about my pregnancy. Call it hormones, but suddenly, I wanted to make sure I had more time to spend with my daughter. When I was single and even during the first years of our marriage, I admit that my priority was my career. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to earn truckloads of money, or even be a billionaire before I reached the big 4-0. However, when this gift came, it was as though sunlight suddenly washed over my responsibilities and priorities. I began to ask myself: Is my career really that important to me? My main driver for pursuing the business that I started was so that I can earn while spending a lot of time with my family. With a business, I would be able to set my own time, be my own boss, and still be part of the significant moments in my child’s life.
I thank God that the journey has been a fairly successful one for me. As with any journey, though, you have to take that first step. That step is one that is not taken lightly and one that only YOU can decide to take yourself. It takes a lot of planning and introspection but I can honestly tell you that once you’ve decided, nothing is more empowering. Good luck!
(First published in the Philippine Online Chronicles, May 11, 2013. )