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November 8, 2016

You are Fired!

You are fired! Those can be the worst or the best words you might ever hear, and time has a way of changing your perspective.  I started my career in broadcasting and by all accounts, I was pretty successful. I was promoted several times, won awards, and had a great following. That’s the good news.

Then, I got fired. That is not the bad news. Although when it happened, it threw me for a loop. Anyone who has been through ownership changes or downsizing understands that there are many things you cannot control. However, you can control your response.

The loss of a job is what spurs many to go out on their own and start a business.  That certainly was the case for me. I knew it was time to make a change. I had chances to move to stations in larger markets, but every opportunity I explored seemed like I would be doing the same job, just in a different city.  Where was the challenge in that?  Like countless others, I dreamed about having more control over my life and career. I wanted to own my own business, run it, and grow it. That’s why I founded Cynthia Kay and Company and in 30 years the business has thrived.

In some ways it is much easier to “bet on yourself” and start a business than ever before. The acceleration of the Internet and e-commerce has made it easier to launch a business with minimal investment. But, in the rush to open the doors, many miss important steps.

Step 1: Really consider your options. Are you starting a business because you need to make a job for yourself?  Are you burned out on corporate life, feeling you are not valued or appreciated?  Is there work you want to do but can’t find the right place to do it? I have talked with countless individuals who considered starting a business only to find they have an unrealistic idea of business ownership. Some decided to take the plunge. Others found working for someone else was the best option.

Step 2: Understand whether you have the mindset to be a business owner.  Believe it or not, it is not very different than the mindset of the professional athlete. You have to be focused. Focused on what you want to achieve. Focused on what it takes to get there. Focused on the long-term plan for the business. Without this focus, you will become a statistic because the failure rate is high especially in the first few years.

Step 3: Vet your product or service. It’s not enough to think you will provide something that captures the attention of buyers. It’s easy to believe the market is just waiting for you. Great products sometimes don’t sell and great companies fail. Do your homework and surround yourself with people who will be critical and force you to think.

Step 4: Assess your tolerance for risk. If you are starting a business or growing your business to the next level, you can’t play it safe. I built my company through several downturns and during the most recent recession. This required significant financial investment, risk, and a lot of sleepless nights. You have to be willing to take calculated risks and live with the results.

Step 5: Be Ahead of the Pack. Being ahead of the pack is not only about your product, technology, or equipment…although, that is important. It is about how you work with employees and serve your customers. Let’s start with employees. Don’t squelch your employee’s enthusiasm for new processes, products, or revenue streams. However, be sure there is a good business case to support them. Listen for hints from your customers about the direction they are taking and try to develop products and services to align with them. Of course, you don’t want to be too far ahead.  If you are going to be an “early adopter,” you might want to test the water with a few key customers to see if you are on the right track.

Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me. It caused me to seriously consider what I always knew I would do at some point in my life – start a business. That’s the good news. And if you want to learn more about how to step out, and create the career or business you want, join me Wednesday.

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