Owning a business, being an entrepreneur — it’s hard work, to say the least.

It’s long hours spent sending proposals, learning from rejected proposals, nudging (and pushing) clients for payment, and losing revenue as quickly as it’s gained.

So, why do we do it? Why do we opt for the challenge and uncertainty over seemingly steady paychecks, and pre-established policies and processes?

Because we have to. It’s like a flip has been switched to “on” in our brains, and in the distance, a light appears. The path in chasing it may not yet be clear but the determination to do so certainly is.

Realizing my own path forward into small business ownership was a journey. One that began during my 15-year stint with RNW Consulting.

As a business manager with the firm, I wore not just many hats, but sometimes seemingly all the hats. From IT to HR, finance to strategy, I became familiar with every aspect of business operations. I learned bookkeeping from a CPA while on the job. I drove process at every turn internally, helping the team grow from nothing to $3 million in revenue by the end of my time there.

And it wasn’t until I essentially worked myself out of a job that the next stage of my journey came into focus.

 

See Next Steps as Necessary

I still remember the day my boss and mentor called me into his office. With tears in his eyes, he told me they were letting me go. There was simply nothing left for me to contribute to.

The processes I had worked to put in place were doing their jobs, and doing them so well that in turn, mine became obsolete. And even though my head was spinning at hearing the news, I can’t say I was surprised even then. Had the shoe been on the other foot, I would’ve let me go, too.

Still, it wasn’t an easy or comfortable position to be in — coming face to face with the truth that it was time to move on.

Often times, we’re not blind to the fact that we’re unhappy, unsatisfied, or underutilized in our careers. We’re just comfortable. Until the moment we realize, as entrepreneurs, that even more fulfillment can be found in the discomfort of setting out into the unknown.

 

See Your Strengths and Play to Them

When the fog cleared roughly two weeks after I was let go, I sat on a train into Chicago. It was on this ride that I overheard a man talking about his plans to start a business. He was energized, confident, and in that moment, the flip switched.

I was going to start a business, but a business in what? I knew what I was good at — process, numbers, operations — but what value did my strengths hold in the bigger picture of what people actually needed?

After surveying a number of business owners, a trend emerged in the form of Financial Management. My niche was born and simultaneously, so was Officeheads.

 

Embrace Things That Show You Joy

Starting a business is always a two-way street. As far as I’m concerned, you should be building something that not only serves a need for potential clients and customers, but something you enjoy doing.

We all have that thing we could do until 2 a.m.; that project we enjoy so much that time gets lost. For me, that joy comes in the form of creating solutions through numbers. Numbers that I can then use as a filter for gauging just how healthy a business actually is. Numbers tell me how the facilities, financial, human resources, marketing, operations, relationship management, risk management, sales, service delivery, strategy, and technology and communications are doing.

The joy found in helping businesses grow is what propels my own business forward. It’s the ultimate gut check.

 

Find Your Inspiration

The evolution of my business and role as a business owner has been a product of the insight I’ve found along the way. I’ve come to realize what it is about running a business that I truly love by chasing every inspiration — by doing.

Hone the skills you do have, acknowledge what you’re not skilled at, and improve where you can. When you do, you’ll find that your niche as a small business owner is much more likely to be the thing that finds you.