Plan to Succeed
(how I finally learned to start an online business that would last)
I got really good at developing and launching an online business, but the journey to being an entrepreneur had so many setbacks I didn’t think I had what it took to be successful. I made some painful mistakes with the first few tries, but was able to draw from some experts and get to a point where I want to share all the things I’ve learned. Let me give you a little backstory and show you how I messed up along the way to becoming an entrepreneur, so you can avoid the mistakes I made and get to your goals faster than I did.
My mother was divorced with two daughters to raise on her own in her early thirties. We were redlined into a neighborhood with all the other single moms and low income households in a not-so-great part of Mesa Arizona, just down the street from the hospital where we had an all night serenade of ambulance sirens. I didn’t know anyone in my new grade school and was even in a fight my first week. I wanted to go back to our old neighborhood so badly, I had a toy suitcase packed in my closet so I would always be ready to go.
My mom fought like hell to keep a job she didn’t like so she could make sure we stayed in the same house until my sister and I grew up. She could barely afford her mortgage most of the time. But she made sure it was always paid and that her girls had a few things that would make life a little better, like braces thank goodness. And we learned a lot about grit and resilience by watching her.
That struggle took a toll on my mom though. Raising children alone was a lot of responsibility. She made the choice to do that because she had strength, but there was some suffering for her and for us that came along with it. Making that choice must have been very difficult. Looking back at it now, I feel like the financial impact was harder than the changes in our family dynamic.
Because of our financial struggle, I grew up believing my needs weren’t important. I compared myself to other kids because of what they had, missed out on the ability to participate in things because we couldn’t afford it, and drew the conclusion that when I wanted something, there just wouldn’t be enough. So I learned to stop wanting things. It took a long time to undo the habit and start thinking about making improvements on my life.
I had a part-time job through most of high school and got a pretty good full time job right after graduation. Incredible blessing. My mom offered that if I went to community college I could live at home, but I didn’t want to stick around for the time it would take for me to get my degree. I had an opportunity to make money instead of going to school, which at that time meant being able to go out with friends and spend a little money when I did.
That job was my way out. My way to freedom. I took the job in June, got a car in September, and was gone by October. I was 18.
The impact of what I experienced as a kid had a bigger impact on me than I had realized. I didn’t witness functional relationships and had no idea how to choose a good partner. Two marriages and two divorces later, I had my own kids to raise as a single mom. I was determined to make sure my kids knew I could take care of them and meet their needs, so they wouldn’t feel like I did as a kid. Still, I seemed to always be making just enough money to get by and no more than that.
It was hard to raise them on what I was capable of making in hourly jobs, but I always had a job, no matter what it was. I found a way to make ends meet, even when my babysitter quit with two days notice, or the time we were about to move into a new apartment but it was given to someone else two weeks away from moving day. Every time something went wrong I found a way to fix it, but the constant anxiety would keep me awake at night worrying.
I felt stuck working hourly dead-end jobs and decided to earn my degree. I thought that would help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life and have the bonus of getting a better job when I graduated. The privilege of going to school meant I needed to take out student loans, which became part of a whole new problem later on, but it did lead to an opportunity. This is the point when everything changed for me.
I’ll never forget the person who stopped by my freezing little office next to the loading dock and asked me if I was planning to apply for one of the higher level jobs that had just opened at work. I was surprised and told her, “No way. That seems like an awful job. Why would I ever want that?”
Then the most astonishing thing came out of her mouth. She said, “Well, you’d be running the shop, so change it to what you want it to be.”
I had no words. All of my adult life I had been a lower level employee. It never occurred to me that I could be the boss. Thoughts instantly started racing through my head of making a decision that was horrible and getting fired immediately. I created a terrifying end of the story of losing my car and my house, and having to move into a relative’s basement, children crying because I let them down, my ex gloating over the failed attempt at bravery.
Getting defensive and feeling the shame of my precarious financial situation, I started telling her all the reasons why I wasn’t capable. I was trying to play it safe. She blew all that out of the water with, “Hello. You’ve been doing most of that job ever since the other person left.”
She’s in my head now. I had been doing the work. But why would they want me to do it permanently?
She knew I was about to run away and said, “Just try. At least update your resume and apply.” Ugh! Relentless! I didn’t even want to try before she walked in here. What if I actually got it?
The painful hours of poring over my resume and cover letter paid off with an interview, and I got the job. And yeah, it was hard just like I thought it would be. But I got used to being a decision-maker.
I was the one who decided what we bought, ways to increase our sales, how the work was divided. It was my first step into an entrepreneurial mindset.
With every decision I made, I started to gain confidence. I could do this. Not that it was perfect. Sometimes I made bad decisions, but I was better the next time. I had lots of practice recovering from setbacks, and it served me well.
I started to become a creator. If I can do this, what else could I do? This was the first time in my life I was starting to ask myself, “What do I want?”
One thing was for sure, I wanted freedom from being someone’s employee. Some of my classes in college had been about running an online business and I had thought about doing it, but I was so busy when I was in school that the idea had faded away.
The more I thought about it, the more exciting it was to have the choice to create exactly what I wanted to do instead of letting someone else make my choices for me. I was going to decide what my future looked like.
I did everything I could think of to prepare for that. I workshopped and went to retreats, took new online courses on planning a business and signed up for coaching programs. I had fun figuring out what I needed to know about running a business online.
I learned so much about what I needed to put into my business plan I started helping other people around me to do the same thing. I loved helping people figure out the research they needed to do and where to look for answers. I talked about it so much, I’m sure it was annoying. One of my co-workers started calling me “Queen of the Side-Gig.”
I got really serious and wanted to launch something big. I spent months developing an online course about something I had a lot of experience with. I wrote scripts for videos in the middle of the night, recorded videos on the weekends, built a website and wrote emails. I was ready.
I finally launched the website, and nothing happened. I sent emails to potential customers and reached out to do live events and put it on social media. Still nothing. Nobody was buying.
I knew it was a great idea and I knew this was something people really needed. So where was everybody? Again, that gut-wrenching feeling I wasn’t capable started to creep into my thoughts.
It took weeks for me to get my first customer, but that was all I had. One. And it was the only one I ever got from that launch. It was crushing. I spent hours creating content and turning my ideas into reality, for one customer.
I felt like I had failed. I wondered if I was just one of those people who couldn’t run an online business. I dropped the site and closed the program.
But what happened next really surprised me. I didn’t feel that bad. I felt relieved. All that work, all that time creating was gone, but I was okay with it.
Here’s what I realized. I was creating an online business I knew a lot about, but that didn’t mean I wanted to run that business. What I loved was the creativity, diving into the business plan and figuring out the questions I needed to ask in order to know the business through and through.
The fun of it was learning the tools that would make it easier to run a business. It was fun learning about research questions. And I didn’t even know this was the part that some entrepreneurs dreaded.
Having this one chance to explore what I really wanted to do, knowing that I had a choice to build my own business, all started with that one person asking me to try something new. She didn’t let me play down my strengths or let me keep believing I wasn’t capable. I want to pass that along.
I’ve gathered the best parts of what I learned from experts in business and marketing, and I created my own program to help other people get organized and get their business launched. It has a detailed business plan outline, but goes deeper than that, with tools for breaking false beliefs and the ways I have learned to rise above the competition that can help you not only launch a successful business but to thrive, be free, and have the life you always wanted.
If you need help figuring out how to start your business, I can’t wait to tell you what I have done to make all the planning easier for you. I’m sharing a free training webinar on my website www.sharonbond.com/plan-to-succeed and I’d love for you to check it out. Go there now and get started.