Solopreneur Story: My 5th Year in Business
Continuing along in documenting my solopreneur journey, here is the update I wrote in 2017 as I reached the fifth year running my own show...
It’s amazing to think that I have not worked in a regular office environment for FIVE years now, and equally amazing to be at a point with my business where I have been able to meet so many great people, have so many incredible experiences both as a recruiter and as a career coach, and be able to look forward and call this solopreneur thing not a flash in the pan. Something about 5 years has legitimized my imprint here in the Pacific Northwest.
I always like to talk about what I’ve learned as a small business owner, and this anniversary is no exception. If you’re not constantly learning, you’re not going to succeed as far as I’m concerned. So here are my three lessons that have rung especially true in this past year, as well as overall as a small business owner:
Lesson #1: You don’t have to work with every client who approaches you. Early on in my business, I took every client that approached me, even if I didn’t agree with their approach, the job at hand, the pay range for the position, etc. I did what I call “full capitalist” so I could make money. While this money did pay off some serious bills, if I had to go back, there are a couple that I would have said no to as I was hoping unrealistically that it’d all work out. And you know what? I would have been okay without that money. Ultimately, I lost peace of mind going against my instincts – so I’m much, MUCH more upfront when I start talking to a client and make sure they understand that my business model is my own. Some have tried to tell you that you should change it to fit their needs, but that’s the thing – I offer retained search in a way that has been incredibly successful, and these days I know that when that happens, it’s not the right client for me. Because I know me, and I perform at my best when I’m doing me.
Lesson #2: Beware the client (or prospect) who talks down to you from the start. I’ve tried as a business owner to take certain personalities on as a challenge, to see if I can open my mind a bit more to who they are and where they are coming from. But there have been a few who have, sadly, proven to be ones that I don’t want to work with again because of how they behave. Some clients like to treat consultants like employees rather than business partners, and others assume that they can sit around and – even though as recruiters we tell them we need their full participation during the process – literally wait for things to happen. One of the most important things I like to teach my clients is that they have to be ACTIVELY INVOLVED in the hiring process, but unfortunately many think they know better than you, the subject matter expert (even though they came to you because they couldn’t find anyone on their own), and refuse to step up their game. That is their prerogative, of course, but this unwillingness to change their strategy is proof positive why so many companies – particularly in tech – complain that it’s “soooo hard” to find great talent. Whether it be refusing to adjust the way they interview, keeping a narrow mindset when it comes to “personality fit” (AKA “I have a distinct stereotype in my mind for this role and if you’re not fitting it you’re not going to succeed, even though you are clearly qualified”), not paying competitively to the market they’re in, or blaming everything on the recruiter (recruiters find you talent and help you establish good processes – they don’t make hiring decisions) when often it’s their lack of openness to diverse personality types that is slowing things down.
Lesson #3: Keep building up the karma points – it’ll pay off. I am constantly blown away at the wonderful and diverse people I get a chance to work with, whether it be in my role as a recruiter or as a career coach. I keep being reminded that by sticking to my guns and being purely ME, by striving to create not only an efficient and effective process for the hiring teams but also a fantastic candidate experience? Or by delivering with heart and honesty to my coaching clients who need not only an expert but an advocate? People remember that stuff – and it’s not always the people you think. I’ve had several former candidates at one client become hiring managers that bring me on at their new company, coaching clients refer me to hiring managers, hiring managers who move on to other companies and engage me there as well…and I have in my recruiting even hired a couple of my coaching clients! It’s pretty rad, and reminds me when I have the occasional dark moments that I’m on the right path, and to keep my chin up.
For budding solopreneurs, click on Solopreneur up top to read prior posts where I’ve talked about my evolution as a small business owner each year – and quarterly, that first year. And don’t worry, it’s not all about recruiting!
Here is to another 5 years!!!! Hard to believe that, next to my 7 years at Nordstrom near the very beginning of my working life, this is the longest job I’ve had. Tells you what I enjoy.
I’m so glad I finally took the leap…