How I Became an Accidental Entrepreneur

I never planned to be a business success. When I left school at 15, after having completed my Intermediate Certificate (equivalent to the School Certificate), I had no great ambition other than to get married and have a family.  I had planned to get a job until I found Mr Right, at which time I expected to give up work and be a stay at home mum. I started work in an office and paid to put myself through business college at night where I learnt typing, shorthand and bookkeeping. I had vague hopes of possibly owning a coffee shop one day but it was more a fantasy than a real dream. As often happens life didn’t go the way I planned, by 28 I had 2 small children, a 6-year-old and a newborn and I wasn’t married. I was the family shame who was hidden away, and I had been rejected by my children’s fathers, so I had a quite a bit of emotional baggage to deal with.

I was fortunate to be eligible for a Government benefit, something that hadn’t been available when I had my first child. I received $42 a week and my rent, for a revolting cockroach infested flat was $30. A friend, Helen, won $200 and she gave this to me so I could buy a very old, dilapidated car, on the condition that I drove her around, and could pay back the money when I could.

Living on the poverty line was no fun but it was enough to motivate me to look for ways to make more money.  I was young, optimistic, determined to provide my children with a good life and I had two great girlfriends who gave me so much support. Helen would come and stay most weekends and often brought me an inspirational book such as Think and Grow Rich, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, Success through a Positive Mental Attitude and so on. I devoured those books and applied what I learnt.

I started my first business, a typing service, from my kitchen table with a hired typewriter (thanks to Helen who lent me the money each time). That business started by word of mouth, and I said affirmations and visualised myself working in my business. That business was not my passion and it was never intended to be any more than a way to supplement my meagre income.

Fast forward a few years and I was working for a male friend. The business was successful, but because of conflict between my friend and his business partner, who embezzled some money from the business, was forced into liquidation. This business manufactured garden accessories which were sold in all major garden centres, department stores and Woolworths. My friend suggested that I take over the business and start again. My Dad lent me some money and I bought the key machinery required at the liquidation sale, employed the foreman, and started a much smaller operation supplying our key accounts. I learnt so much during that time about jigs, powder coating, distribution, I even tried to drive a truck (definitely not something I ever want to do again). In theory the idea was sound but what I hadn’t counted on was that I would hate working in a factory environment. Six months later I placed one advertisement to sell the business and a week later it was sold and I doubled my initial investment.

Meanwhile my former employer had landed on his feet and started a new business, and I went back to work for him. On the side I started a bookkeeping business with the intention of saving to buy a house. When I had a rather acrimonious split with my friend I left paid employment and with the few bookkeeping clients I had started a shopfront secretarial business. Over the coming months I added recruitment to the services I offered, and in my first year did exceptionally well. By the time my second year in business came around I had lost interest because I wasn’t doing what I loved. I put a manager in and went back to paid work for a few months, but that didn’t work. So again I placed one advertisement and sold the business, making a good  profit. That business continued to trade for at least 20 years after I sold it.

I went back to work in the corporate world and had 3 jobs in 20 months. I hated working for an employer again. I hated the office politics. I searched for the right job, did a career change course, regularly sent my resume out to firms I thought I might want to work for. When none of that worked I reached the point of surrender, and decided to focus on all I was grateful for. Once I did this an opportunity arose to start a subsidiary financial planning business for women for a major financial planning company. This was the early eighties and women did not have equal rights to men when it came to money. Many banks did not lend to women without a male guarantor, very few women bought a home on their own. Many older women didn’t know how to write a cheque and as ATM’s were new, a lot of people did not trust them.

This was the first job that met so many of my needs yet 6 months later, I heard through the grapevine, that I was about to be replaced. I gave notice and during my notice period my employer asked if I would like to take over an office under a licence arrangement, I would be responsible for all of the overheads. I jumped at the opportunity. That was the role that changed my life and I believe it was something I was meant to do. I learnt so much in that role such as how to talk to groups, run courses, handle the media, do interviews, write columns and so on. If it wasn’t for that role I would not have had my first book published, which changed the whole direction of my work life, and eventually led to my becoming a life coach and starting a training business.

During the lean period between The Financial Woman and starting Hart Life Coaching I started another small business just to make money to tide me over, and again sold it a profit. Not every business I tried worked. I had a few failures along the way but I don’t dwell on failure, what is most important to me is that I have more successes than failures.

I never set out to be an entrepreneur or achieve business success. I am not motivated by money. I have always wanted to help people and do work that I love and you can too. Here is my formula for business success:

  1. Be ready for opportunity. Throughout my working life I have done courses, sometimes not knowing where those courses would lead, only to find that what I learnt was invaluable in some future business. I did several public speaking courses which helped me so much when I started giving talks to the public. I was only offered my role with The Financial Woman because I was one of the few women in the country at that time authorised to give financial advice. I have always attended some type of personal development seminars or courses. I still do at least one course a year because I love to learn.
  2. Do what makes you happy. Studies show that the happier you are the easier it is to succeed, we naturally trust and want to do business with happy people. It took me a long time to discover this for myself. I didn’t have a life coach to help me when I was trying to find my way as they didn’t exist back then, but a good life coach is worth the investment.
  3. Act courageously. Note I did not say you have to feel courageous. Everyone gets scared at the beginning, it is how you act that is most important. Action comes first, feeling follows. When I look back at some of the things that I had the audacity to try I am proud of myself for being so courageous. It wasn’t always easy and I am a person who has always experienced some self doubt, but I didn’t allow my self doubt to dictate the direction my life took or influence my choices. Negative feelings only count if you dwell on them, or act upon them.
  4. Make a commitment. Every business I started has succeeded only because of the commitment I made to myself and the hard work I put in. I never put a time limit on my success, I never said I would only work a set amount of hours per week, although my work always had to fit around my children. I worked at night after I put my children to sleep if I had to. When I was applying for accreditation for my current business sometimes I started work at 5.30 am. Commitment and focus can be much the same, I always acted as if I expected to succeed and because of this I now have a deep seated belief that I deserve every bit of success and financial abundance that comes to me.
  5. Find someone to support you. You may have noticed that in every venture I went into in the early days I had a great deal of support from friends, this I believe was a major contributor to my success. Later in life I didn’t always have that support and it is very easy to focus on what is missing. I had to find ways to support myself, and sometimes that meant that I paid for support.
  6. Focus on your personal strengths. I am genuine, so many people who have done business with me have told me they did so because they trusted me. Some people are perceptive, great communicators, creative, adventurous. If you are not sure ask your friends and co-workers what they think your personal strength is.
  7. Find a way to market your business in a way that you enjoy. When I started the shopfront secretarial service I started cold calling on local businesses to see if they wanted to outsource their bookkeeping and I hated it, that is when I decided that I would never do something I hated again. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever do some jobs you don’t like much, most people have to do those. It means that when it comes to marketing I would use the skills that I enjoy using to build my business. For me that is writing. I love writing. I am a natural networker, if I find someone who is good I tell everyone about them, so much business has come to me through referrals.
  8. Develop a positive mindset. The single most influential factor that distinguishes successful people from the crowd is that they have a positive mindset. A positive mindset is something that you have to work at and commit to. You need to regularly feed your mind by reading inspirational books, listening to audios, watching videos. This is not something you do just for awhile, your daily routine needs to constantly feed your mind and your soul. We live in a predominantly negative world so this step is vital.

I never expected to be a best-selling author. Since I first started in business I have written seven books under my own name, and ghost wrote three books for other people. I adapted two of Suze Orman’s books for the Australian  market. I never expected to be a public speaker. I have spoken to audiences of over a thousand people. I never ever thought I would be on radio or TV. I have had regular TV and radio segments. I never expected to write courses. I have written many courses and have a training course nationally accredited. I  never expected to run a training school. I never expected my life to take the direction that it did. I just did what I had to do.

Business success doesn’t have to be hard, for many successful people it often just happens. There is a place that you are to fill that no-one else can fill, all you have to do is follow the above-mentioned steps and follow the signs. You are given signs all of the time, sometimes though when your focus is on what is missing, what is wrong, or your own self doubt you don’t recognise them.