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From Me to We: Growing a Solopreneur Business

by Shonali Burke on March 19, 2010

Since 2007, life as a marketing practitioner has been all about me, myself and I.

No we’re not talking conceit — we’re talking running a business as a one (wo)man army.

This “solopreneur” structure actually worked quite well in the beginning. Back then, my very small business began with just one tiny client. Soon there were others.

Three plus years later, however, you look at the pile of work on your desk and then you look at the clock. Last I checked, there were only 24 hours in a day and you’re supposed to be allegedly sleeping at least 8 of those hours, right?

And when you try to factor in young children, needy teenage daughters and their active social lives, and a husband who misses you even though you are both living under the same roof, you have to ask yourself: will it always be this way?

Challenges of the “homepreneur”

I’ve met many entrepreneurial women over the course of the past few years and several of the “homepreneur” ones working from their homes often face many of the challenges I’ve shared above.

In fact, one woman I know has multiple businesses she operates from her house, including a commercial embroidery service (yes, with a very, very large commercial embroidery machine that cost over $8K and takes up half her basement) as well an entire living room dedicated to a line of baby and toddler accessories she sells online.

As if that weren’t enough, she also designed a line of baby weather gear that she’s patented and sells online as well. And oh, she has three young children and a husband who works full-time!

Clearly I’m not alone! And neither are you.

It takes a while to wrap your head around what you are doing.

You’ll reach a point where you have to ask yourself: where you are going with all of this and what is your desired outcome?

Often, it’s hard to even think about such things when project work and family demands keep calling.

What I’ve learned in the past few months is that if you do not make the time to address these most critical details, and force yourself to rise above it all to better define the strategic vision from a bird’s eye view, then you’ll never have the clarity needed to guide the direction and the future of your business.

Instead, you’ll drown in a sea of day-to-day tactical operations with no end in sight.

Stopping to smell the flowers in your business when you are being hit left and right is no easy feat. It took me well over a year to find the clarity required to address my own situation.

And what I realized is that to achieve the goals I’ve defined for my business, the “I” and “me” era would need to end. In its place, a new “we” and “us” mojo would need to begin.

And so it has begun.

Last November, I added a talented team of folks to my “I” team … meaning now it is an official “we” and “us” environment around here. And most recently a beloved friend and professional peer, Deanna McNeil (pictured above, left), has also joined our ranks.

The transition from “me, myself and I” mode has not been an easy one.

After years of operating solo, solo thinking simply became a habit.

But the gift of having a team has been amazing and one I now wonder why it took me so long to get there.

For those women entrepreneurs who are on the fence about transitioning from “me” to “we” mode, weigh your options and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What can you do well without extra folks helping you out?
  2. What would you have more time to do (personally and professionally) if a small team were in place?
  3. What can or should be outsourced?
  4. What can another team member do well, possibly even handle better than you can?
  5. How will your clients benefit from having a team in place? (e.g. more attention, improved customer service, more immediate turn around times?)

The answers to these questions will help you sort through any uncertainties and flush through most any points of resistance.

Good luck!

Want more inspiration?

Image courtesy Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

Mayra Ruiz is founder of Ruiz McPherson Communications, a social media influence and digital marketing service based in historic Charles Town, West Virginia. With more than 15 years of hands-on marketing, communications and PR experience, Mayra leads her clients forward on all aspects of creative direction, online promotion and marketing communications with innovation, passion and gusto.  When offline, Mayra enjoys “old fashioned” non-techy stuff like cooking, sewing and collecting vintage treasures from area antiques stores. She can be reached at www.twitter.com/mayraruiz or www.twitter.com/ruizmcpherson (her marketing practice).

Since 1997, life as a marketing practitioner was all about me, myself and I. No we’re not talking conceit — we’re talking running a business as a one (wo)man army. This solopreneur structure actually worked quite well in the beginning. Back then, my very small business began with just one tiny client. Soon there were others.

Three plus years later, however, you look at the pile of work on your desk and then you look at the clock. Last I had checked, there were only 24 hours in a day and you’re supposed to be allegedly sleeping at least 8 of those hours, right? And when you try to factor in young children, needy teenage daughters and their active social lives and a husband who misses you even though you are both living under the same roof, you have to ask yourself will it always be this way?

I’ve met many entrepreneurial women over the course of the past few years and several of the “homepreneur” ones working from their homes often face many of the challenges I’ve shared above. One woman I know, in fact, has multiple businesses she operates from her house including a commercial embroidery service (yes, with a very, very large commercial embroidery machine that cost over 8K and takes up half her basement) as well an entire living room dedicated to a line of baby and toddler accessories she sells online. As if that were not enough, she also designed a line of baby weather gear that she’s patented and sells online as well. And oh, she has three young children and a husband who works full time!

Clearly I’m not alone! And neither are you.

It takes a while to wrap your head around what you are doing and you will reach a point where you have to ask yourself where you are going with all of this and what will be your desired outcome. Often, it’s hard to even think about such things when project work and family demands keep calling.

What I’ve learned in the past few months is that if you do not make the time to address these most critical details, and force yourself to rise above it all to better define the strategic vision from a bird’s eye view, then you’ll never have the clarity needed to guide the direction and the future of your business. Instead, you’ll drown in a sea of day-to-day tactical operations with no end in sight.

Stopping to smell the flowers in your business when you are being hit left and right is no easy feat. It took me well over a year to find the clarity required to address my own situation. And what I realized is that to achieve the goals I’ve defined for my business, the “I” and “me” era would need to end. In its place, a new “we” and “us” mojo would need to begin.

And so it has begun. Last November, I added a talented team of folks to my “I” team … meaning now it is an official “we” and “us” environment around here. And most recently a beloved friend and professional peer, Deanna McNeil (shown above), has also joined our ranks.

The transition from me, myself and I mode has not been an easy one. After years of operating solo, solo thinking simply became a habit. But the gift of having a team has been amazing and one I now wonder why it took me so long to get there.

For those women entrepreneurs who are on the fence about transitioning from “me” to “we” mode, always weigh your options and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What can you do well without extra folks helping you out?
  2. What would you have more time to do (personally and professionally) if a small team were in place?
  3. What can or should be outsourced?
  4. What can another team member do well, possibly even handle better than you can?
  5. How will your clients benefit from having a team in place? (e.g. more attention, improved customer service, more immediate turn around times?)

The answers to these questions will help you sort through any uncertainties and flush through most any points of resistance.

Good luck!

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