After I moved to the US almost two years ago, I decided to start my own business. A little funny actually, because growing up, I always swore that I would never become a small business owner. I grew up in the backroom of my parents’ business, so I have seen firsthand that running a business can be hard work.
I find that moving to a new location can set you free to take on new opportunities and try something different. In addition, so many people I meet in The States run their own businesses. Some of course run a small or large business as their main profession. But many are also employees, people with a day job, and a house, and a spouse, and kids, and two dogs that still find time to run their own little business on the side.
A ‘side hassle’ some call it, an extra income or just a change to try something new. Maybe some of that entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off on me and made me take the leap.
New country new opportunities
I moved to the US because my husband got a new job. When we left Denmark, I quit my job as a strategic development consultant and facilitator; a job that I really enjoyed, a job that inspired me. Through my work as a workshop facilitator, I had been introduced to Lego Serious Play: a way of utilizing Lego bricks and the concept of play to help adults open op their minds and build new ideas. It’s a great tool for team and business development. I loved the methodology – still do! – and I thought: this is my change to bring something really great to a new audience. That’s how I started my facilitation business, promoting the idea of Lego Serious Play to my new local market.
So, how did that go, you may ask. Well, to be absolutely honest, I am still trying to figure that out. Some days it is amazing. Other days, I still wonder if I have enough of that entrepreneurial spirit to actually keep on running my own business. But one thing is for sure, the last year has taught me a lot about the pros and cons of starting a business. Here are a few:
It takes time
Moving to a new location with hardly any business network and trying to start a business from scratch, takes time. This is an issue that you might want to give some extra consideration to if, like me, you are a traveling partner.
How long are you in your new location, and is the time and money you will spend building your business going to be worth the investment? Or, can you maybe find ways to build a mobile business, something global, online or portable that makes it possible to take the business with you when you move on?
It’s not as flexible as you might think
When you are trying to build a new business, you pretty much work when your first new costumers need you to work. Yes, I have missed my kids spring concert because I prioritized a tradeshow. And yes, my kids had to learn how to get themselves ready and on the school bus in the morning, so that I could attend early morning business meetings. I am not saying this is a bad thing, actually I think it has been part of a natural healthy development for all of us. I am just saying, that if what motivated you to start your own business is the desire to have a nice flexible work-life balance, you might want to think again.
It’s a great door opener
There are many conferences, tradeshows, network meetings, associations and special events out there. You will be amazed what a business card, a business owner identity and a pitch will give you accesses to. If, like me, you like to explore, the biggest challenge might be finding ways to prioritize the activities you attend, to make sure you stay focused on your business.
It’s an invaluable source of professional development
I started my business because I thought it was a great way for me to continue doing something I really enjoy: facilitate creative problem-solving workshops. I honestly didn’t think about how developing a business plan, networking in a new country, marketing my skills and working in different cultures would end up being an amazing professional learning opportunity for myself.
To my own surprise taking on all these different tasks has even been a positive influence on my skills as a facilitator, because it has given me an opportunity to see the value of my profession from so many new different angles.
Ready for the challenge?
If all of this sounds reasonable to you, here is my advice for anyone ready to take on the challenge:
Start networking now
Promoting a new business takes a great network, but don’t wait for your business idea to be fully developed before you start networking. Networking takes time and once people know each other they will often do a great job promoting each other’s businesses. Take that time to get to know people and let them get to know you.
Start networking as early as you can and use the networking to get to know your new market. Learning about other people’s professions and businesses can be a great step on the way for you to develop a business idea that will attend to your local markets needs.
Also of course, great networking is actually about helping others and giving more referrals, so be ready to put yourself out there to support and develop your network.
Don’t do it alone
If you can, finding a local business partner might be a really good idea. If this is not in your scope, still try to find local advisers. Seek whatever advice you can find offered to new business owners – locally or online. Or join a co-working space. Find a small professional network that will let you ask all the stupid first-timer questions and help you brainstorm for new business opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others. Great ideas truly do get even greater when you have had a chance to discuss them with another person.
Don’t give up
There will be good days and there will be bad days. On a bad day, I try to remind myself that working my normal 9-5 day job back home also had its ups and downs. Accept trials and errors. And find energy in the good days. This is the energy that will help you grow a healthy and meaningful business.