So...here's my brand new business!
I'm the newest Showhomes franchisee. Visit the website at http://www.showhomes.com/. They are a real estate staging and property management company. Or perhaps I should now say we.
I have mentioned before (but only briefly and in passing) that I love interior design and houses and architecture. Those of you who have read my blog from the beginning know that I lost my job in February of this year, but I saw it as a blessing. I hated that job. It was in no way helping me reach any of my personal goals.
It was boring and repetitive. All it did was pay the bills. It did not challenge me mentally. It did not teach me anything. It did not nourish my soul. However, I was living comfortably enough (financially speaking) that I was not motivated to change. Even though I wanted to work for myself and do something more creative, I kept thinking how irresponsible it would be to 'step out in faith' as some of you have said. I thought that I should have something lined up or at least a more concrete plan in mind before I left.
Yet, I was so caught up in the day to day of doing my job and living my life that I did not look for anything else with any diligence. I had only the foggiest of ideas about what I might like to do...
Write, perhaps, or maybe start my own web design and consulting business. I like that, but a lot of people are doing it and there's not a lot of money to be made on the small time gigs. I would most likely still have to work another part-time job or really hustle to get new clients all the time...or build a really, really strong portfolio and have a business plan and marketing strategy that was far superior to the competition....which I believe I could have done, if I had ever spent enough time on it, but I never did.
I did not have enough savings to live on (the suggested 6 months) if I left and didn't find something else. (Or make the business work immediately.) And in fact, like so many Americans, I had fallen into the routine of living paycheck to paycheck. I'm single and had more disposable income than a lot of my peers and was just in the habit of spending more of it than I should have on clothing and eating out...nonessentials.
Because I could pay my credit cards and other bills (pay on, mind you, not pay off) every month I didn't really pay attention to how much I was spending and the fact that I was indeed living beyond my means and not planning for a solid financial future. Because I have a house that I can afford and a car that's paid for, I just felt more comfortable than I should have.
Losing my job made me face the reality of where I was financially. It made me think seriously about how I was (not) handling my business. I had deceived myself into thinking that keeping that job was the responsible thing to do, when in fact, the stifling atmosphere and the need I felt to seek fulfillment in other ways was actually holding me back more than leaving ever would have. I had settled.
No, worse. I had painted myself into a corner.
I talked about starting a business or going back to school the whole time I was at that job. I kept saying it was temporary, but I look back now and I know I would still be there if I we hadn't lost that contract. If I hadn't been laid off, I would still be complaining about the tiny cubicles and the endless rules....still talking about how I was going to work for myself one day and feeling more and more like a liar/pretender/impostor with every week that passed with me having come no closer to my goal.
A friend of mine used to say all the time: A goal without a plan is just a dream.
And it is so true!
Working for myself was just a dream. Yes, it was something I really wanted to do. Yes, it was something I believed I could do, but I had absolutely no plan in place...just a vague sense of what I liked to do and that if I could just figure out how to get people to pay me real money to do certain things that I enjoy (that don't feel like work)...well then - then I would be on to something.
So: what do I like to do?
Talk (obviously). Write (also a no-brainer). Design things: print ads, layouts, websites, paintings, photo-collages, rooms....on and on that list goes....
I'm really good at sales, marketing, and advertising, as well as public speaking and copy-writing...but I don't actually have a degree in any of those things. Or enough documented experience to apply for anything but entry level jobs. I don't really want to do entry level anything at my age. And truthfully I knew I didn't really want a job at an ad agency or as a media planner or any such thing.
Okay, what else?
I like decorating, but I don't really want to be an interior designer.
I love real estate, but I knew I didn't want to be an agent (not as my chosen career).
So...those are some of my talents and interests. Put them in a bottle, shake them up and what do you get?
Yeah, I didn't know either....
One aimless wanderer?
I spent months feeling like my internal compass was totally broken. I didn't know what direction I should strike out in for the next part of my life, only that what I had been doing in the last 5 years or so was not working for me anymore. And that I was likely to become even more unhappy and discontented in the next five if things didn't change.
I was living reasonably well, but I knew I wasn't living my best life....and you just reach a point when you think to yourself: yeah, this lifestyle has been okay until now, but it's not what I want for myself in the next ten years. I gave myself a fair amount of room to experiment and make certain kinds of mistakes between 20 and 30, and to be irresponsible in small ways, but that is not what I want to keep happening between 30 and 40. There are certain things I have figured out and other things I feel like I should have figured out by now.
One thing I have figured out is that any job that I will deem worth doing has got to challenge me every day. It has to be a little bit demanding and difficult or it will not hold my interest, but I also must have a fair amount of freedom and flexibility. Another related thing I figured out is that I really don't like being told what to do. I like being in control and calling the shots. In the last year I have gotten lots of advice from well-meaning friends and family, even my friendly rep at the local unemployment office.
I was told I should look into property management or being an office manager. I would be good at that, so they said. I have the ideal personality. I'm friendly and outgoing, but also take-charge and get-things done. ..So I'm told.
And I believe it's true. And I gave it serious thought.
And I started thinking: why pay the man or work for the man, when you can be the man?
Not everyone can be the man...but I think I can....
I thought about how I could manage a community or real estate portfolio or run an office (like the one I currently work part-time in) and I could bust my hump working 40 and 50 hour weeks to manage, maintain, and grow someone else's business for a set salary...maybe comissions...or...I could expend the same amount of time and energy growing my own business and representing (and enriching) myself. Also a no-brainer.
So I've been researching careers and business opportunities and franchises, etc.... Studying the success of others...and then, one day I found Showhomes and it was love at first sight! The more I studied and the closer I looked, the more it seemed like a really perfect fit for me. The business model is really a unique idea. Lots of people do real estate staging, but the home manager program and marketing support really sets the company apart. I could have struck out on my own and not bought into the franchise (as some people encouraged me to do). But it was just like: why re-invent the wheel?
I don't mind giving them a percentage if it means I'm going to make more money faster and with less hassle, trial-and-error, and beating my head against brick walls, running down blind alleys...etc..... I believe working with a franchise really lessens the learning curve. As they say: You're in business for yourself, but not by yourself.
No one else in this area is doing anything quite like it, so I have a real opportunity to position myself for leadership in this market. I'm quite excited about it.
So...I know there will be moments of stress. I expect this year to be hectic and lean for sure, but I also expect the rewards and the payoff to be totally worth it. And I'm not just talking about the money...I'm more focused on the reality of having achieved a goal. I get to pursue a career that combines many of the things that I love and I'm good at. It's a true bonus that it has the potential to pay well!
Thank you so much to all of my dear friends who have shared with me great words of encouragement and advice here on my blog and by e-mail and phone calls.