Sharon Zeev Poole, director of Agent99 Public Relations, explains what not to fear when leaving a corporate role to start your own company.
About seven years ago, I was working for a mid-sized public relations firm in Sydney and was ready for a change. In fact, I wanted my boss’ job…which wasn’t going to happen given that she owned the business! Although I had brilliant clients who I had a fantastic relationship with, amazing colleagues who are still my friends today, and great work life balance, I knew I had more to give.
I had many years’ of experience under my belt in the PR industry and the choice was either to go to a large firm and manage a team as an Account Director, or start a business where I could really take all I had learned and shape a company according to my values. Despite serious nerves, I opted for the latter and started Agent99 Public Relations. I haven’t looked back since.
What I did learn on this journey was that the fears were much greater before I embarked on my mission then when I actually took the plunge and opened the doors for business. So, if you’re in a similar situation, you have a marvellous idea and want to take that leap, here are my top five tips on the fears you shouldn’t have:
1. I’m too scared to give up my secure job and that steady income
Regret the things you don’t do, not the things you do. That was one of the first things that my husband told me when I met him. I think it would be such a shame to be left wondering in life “where would I be if I had done this”…
At the same time, if you’re the type of person who loses sleep at night if you can’t pay the bills (like me), and you want to enjoy the journey, save up enough cash or work towards seed funding. That way, you will feel secure enough to take the plunge for a set (and realistic) period of time. Once you have that, go for it!
2. What if I fail?
Most successful multi millionaire entrepreneurs have failed a number of times before ‘making it big’. You need to think as positively as possible and back yourself 100%. That conviction will also get you through the toughest times, and believe me, there are plenty of them, so be prepared to feel uncomfortable. But to me, that’s part of the journey. If you see yourself as a resourceful and determined person, failure just won’t be an option.
3. If I fail, what will my friends and family think of me?
Just by taking the plunge, you are doing more than what 99% of the population will ever dream of doing. Your friends and family will think you’re courageous for doing it in the first place. It will also become apparent very quickly as to whom the most positive of your supporters are. Get very close to them as they will see you through the challenges, and be there to celebrate the good times with you too.
4. What if I don’t know enough about business?
Learn. There are tons of inexpensive short business courses that are run by the government. To that end, there are also lots of grants to tap into. Do some research and you’ll be amazed at what you find. While you’re saving for your venture or writing proposals for funding, spend that time investing in your knowledge in the spaces that you feel a little unsure about. Once you’ve started your business, keep educating yourself. It’s the most worthwhile investment you’ll make. Also, get a business coach. The right one will push you to the next level and are worth their weight in gold.
5. What if I lose a whole heap of money?
That’s what your savings are for. Set a timeline that you feel comfortable with, so you don’t go into serious debt if this is a real fear for you. For me, it was to replace my salary within six months, or get out. Everyone is different, so write a plan for your business and a personal one that aligns to that. And stick to it. The worst thing that can happen is that you burn through those savings and the business doesn’t go according to plan. Pat yourself on the back for having tried, dust yourself off and look to the next thing as Donald Trump would!
Clearly, it’s much easier in hindsight but those principles are still very relevant to me now, even seven years down the line.
Whilst we have an incredible team and a gorgeous office in Surry Hills, and we get to work on some amazing corporate and consumer brands such as Evian, the Hunter Valley Region, and MTV, there are fears to face daily.
The challenging economy and changing landscape in our industry means there are always threats to guard against. So, we need to check in and see if we’re on track in terms of our goals, and apply the same rules to overcome any fears.
Business is like a Luna Park ride. Some highs can lift you to the sky, and some lows can turn your belly inside out. But no matter what the outcome, you’re always going to have a smile on your face when you’ve done it!
Are you thinking of starting your own business?
Having worked all over the world on high profile brands such as Warner Bros. Pictures and Starbucks Coffee for over 13 years, Sharon founded Agent99 Public Relations in January 2007. An agency built on strong strategic and creative credentials, Agent99 is in constant pursuit of the unconventional, routinely implementing bold brand campaigns that capture national attention in unexpected ways. Committed to achieving unbeatable results, Sharon is always innovating to keep the agency one step ahead of the competition. Today, Agent99 represents an enviable list of lifestyle, consumer and business-to-business clients across the food and wine, travel, health, beauty, online and non-for-profit spaces.
Julia has lived and worked in London, Amsterdam, and New York, and is obsessed with food. She's either cooking or thinking about what to eat next. Follow Julia on Twitter.