This week marks my two year anniversary of becoming an entrepreneur and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experiences and lesson learned. I’m often asked how I got here, I hope this can help other career changers and entrepreneurs as they contemplate what’s next.
If you have ever sat in your current job and wondered if you should be doing something different, you aren’t alone. Many people will get to a critical point in their life and in their career when they have to decide if they will keep going down the current path or make a change.
I decided to make a change.
At 35 years old and midway through my career in finance, I was faced with the question so many of us ask ourselves, “Will I be truly happy if I continue down this career path I’m on?” And for me, the answer was a resounding, “No.”
Chances are you have been where I’ve been and felt the undeniable itch I felt. Maybe there is a different way to live… maybe I can make a change and build a career that will support my life… a better version of my life.
Here is how I determined entrepreneurship was the right move for me and my family, and the steps you can take to build your own path, too.
I lived in Connecticut with my wife and young family and commuted into Manhattan, NY for my job in Prime Brokerage at Morgan Stanley. I managed a team of eight and was proud of how I worked my way up in the organization. I liked the work that I did, but I had reached an important crossroads in my personal life.
The Catalyst for Change
Even though I liked the work I did, I didn’t like the life I was living.
I spent more time commuting than I did at home. I never saw my kids during the week, because I was gone before they woke up and they were asleep by the time I got home. Sound familiar?
This wasn’t the life my wife and I envisioned for ourselves, and we knew something had to change. But in order for us to make the right change, we had to first know what kind of life we wanted to build so our choices could help us reach our goals.
Making the Life Change First
My wife had always wanted to eventually get back to upstate New York where she grew up and where her family lived. For a long time I could never imagine this happening. However, life happens and priorities change. I knew it was the right move for us to make so that we could have a higher quality of life for ourselves and our children.
Once we had determined the life we wanted, the next step was to figure out how we could support that life financially. Moreover, I had to find work that allowed some flexibility where I wouldn’t face the same issues I left.
Getting another Job vs. Creating the Job
To build a new path, there were two options I considered:
1. Getting another job somewhere near our new residence in upstate New York
2. Start my own financial planning business and work for myself
While I would have loved to start my own firm right away, I knew that moving to a smaller firm first and gaining some more experience was the right choice for me. Leaving the rat race was already a big move and I wasn’t ready for a complete 180° change.
I joined a small local investment firm but quickly realized that this wouldn’t foster the overall life change my wife and I wanted – one that offered more choices and greater flexibility, and the chance to control my own destiny.
What I did learn in this role was a) that I loved helping people simplify their financial lives and gain confidence that they were on the correct path and b) I wanted to launch my own financial planning firm.
Now, all I had to do was create the roadmap to turn my dream into a reality like so many entrepreneurs before me.
The Practical Steps to Entrepreneurship
Starting a business and succeeding requires careful planning and preparation. And when you decide to build a business from the ground up midway through your career with a family to support, the stakes are even higher.
So I did exactly what I advise my clients to do today: I made a plan to reach my goals. I went down this list and planned for each stage accordingly.
· Worst case scenario: What is my greatest fear? Failure. What happens if I fail? I can’t support my family. Would it ever get to that point? No, because I would course correct or get another job well before that would ever happen.
· Training and education: What additional training and education do I need before I can execute my vision? I took the necessary steps to earn my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM designation and did work for a financial planning firm for three plus years so that I could acquire the necessary hands-on experience I needed.
· Financial preparedness: How much money do we need saved to cover our expenses if I weren’t to earn an income for 2 years? We wanted to keep our financial life and goals on track as much as possible even during the start-up phase of building a business. Saving up the right amount of cash reserves makes starting a business possible, even when you have a family that depends on you.
· Business planning: What is my business and the services I will offer; how will I get clients; and how will my business grow and evolve over the next five years? Starting a business is the first hurdle. Growing a business for the long-term is what comes next, which is where I am today.
What I’ve Learned
It’s been 2 years since I launched Lake Road Advisors and the biggest thing that I’ve learned since starting down this path is that so much of entrepreneurship is taking that first step and realizing it will be ok. You will have good days and bad days. Starting a business, especially a little later in life, feels scary and uncertain, but it’s worth it.
Now, I see my family every day. I can take time to be present in moments that I would have otherwise missed working for someone else. Today, I lead a very fulfilling life helping other people make smart choices with their money that can help them live more fulfilling lives, too.
I look forward to the challenges I face in growing my business, because no matter what – I am writing my own story and building the path to my future.
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