Premeditation Before the Plunge: Guest

I was struggling to take the plunge into starting my own small business a year ago. My employer owned me. I was juggling the tasks of three or more people and relief was not imminent. In fact, things were likely to get worse. I was a slave to the security of a steady paycheck and health benefits for my family. Yet, I had always imagined opening my own marketing and communications consultancy, working out of my home and managing my own time. Every year, I wimped out because the unpredictability and risks were too high.

I did not wake up one day, walk into my job and resign, although I was inclined to do so many times. Arriving at my decision to pursue my dream was a gradual process with multiple steps that started unconsciously for me nearly a year earlier. Looking back, the steps fell into two phases. The first phase was to assess and find coverage for the personal and business necessities. The second phase was to define my business.

Covering the Necessities

The biggest question in my mind as I pondered whether a move to start my own business was feasible was, “How big is this risk, really?” I still needed to cover health benefits, mortgage, car payment and summer camp for the kids, among many other things.

How much was discretionary? In a few-hours time, looking at my annual and monthly spend, I discovered that approximately 40 percent of my family’s spending -- restaurants, manicures/pedicures, entertainment, Nordstrom, travel -- could be conceded for a short while. I steadily began to make those compromises and socked those dollars away for two purposes: to serve as start-up money for my business and as a cushion for unanticipated family expenses.

Health benefits for my family were my biggest concern. In anticipation of my final move (someday), I looked into the benefits enrollment timelines with my and my husband’s employers and transitioned to his plan from mine when the time came.

Lastly, I began to carry a notebook everywhere I went to capture the plethora of thoughts, ideas and information that would pop into my head as I got closer to making my move. I wrote down every contact with whom I would want to network and over time built up a list of more than 150 people. That list later became the foundation for my business yielding a database of prospects, priorities and goals and a business development plan.

Circle back in early September to learn about my process to define my business’ value proposition, evaluate the market and settle on my business philosophy.

Lori Erikson Copple is a skilled marketing communications professional whose experience spans a broad spectrum of industries and campaigns. For nearly 20 years, she has developed strategy and managed internal and external programs for dozens of organizations, including the grand opening of Millennium Park and the launch of the world’s first bionic man at Chicago’s own Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Her programs have won a number of national and local awards from the Public Relations Society of America, the Publicity Club of Chicago and The League of Communications Professionals. She is a graduate of the Master’s Program for Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University and currently operates an independent consultancy called LuLyn Communications.

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