Believe in yourself

Throughout my early career, I was raised in a corporate environment. Offices, secretaries, lots of people, training programs, procedural manuals, job reviews and plenty of management issues.

In 1997, I got an “entrepreneurial seizure” and decided to go out on my own and become a consultant. I was ready to leave the corporate world, work out of my home and be in charge of my own destiny.

I had been a CFO for many years with several companies, so I decided to become a part-time CFO for smaller companies. I would handle top level financial issues for a half dozen or so clients.

In the beginning I got lucky. I made a couple of phone calls to colleagues who owned businesses and they had a need for this skill. You have to keep in mind that this was a long time ago, and consulting was not nearly in vogue then as it is today. So I landed a couple of jobs to get me started.

I focused at first on the skill. I researched topics that were important for my clients. I designed spreadsheets, flowcharts and templates to bring things into a simpler and clearer perspective. I soon discovered that I was on to something, that most business owners hate financials and the whole financial process. They were usually sales people, marketers or engineers. They despised accounting.

So I used this as an asset-that I would take the burden of worrying about financial issues off of their minds, or at least reduce it a bit.

After about three months in my new career, I realized that my success was less about the actual product, but more about me. The clients liked the way that I made them feel. They liked that issues were kept in confidence. They liked the fact that they could trust me with inner secrets of their business. They enjoyed having a confidant who could hear their side of the story and look for honest critique. And they liked dealing with a realist, which often balanced their optimism.

This was not easy to do, to be able to get into the inner sanctum of my client’s personal and business world. It took time, and it took a belief I could do it. From that moment on, I switched from selling financial services, to selling me, who just happened to know a little bit about accounting and finances.

This revelation was a real jolt, and it changed my whole approach to consulting. I immediately looked at myself through the client’s eyes: my appearance, my approach, my disposition, my demeanor, my style. After a meeting, I would give myself a report card of how I did. And I always felt I was too hard on myself in my ratings; but it made me better the next time.

Becoming a small business owner is risky business. In the end if things go wrong, you really have no one to blame but yourself.

And that is exactly why you need a huge dose of self-confidence that only you can make it work.


John Marklin

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