The three pillars of a reluctant entrepreneur

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Are you faced with a disability or other life altering event that makes it impossible for you to continue in your chosen career path?

Debbie Adams

By Debbie Adams

Are you faced with a disability or other life altering event that makes it impossible for you to continue in your chosen career path? Have you given any thought to becoming an entrepreneur? Before you decide that this article is not for you, read a little more.

I was only 12 when I decided I wanted to be a soldier, and I enjoyed every minute of my time in the army. Vision loss prevented me from continuing.

Owning a business was never an option for me. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I thought that if I had enough education, I would find a great job. A lot of you will know that a good education is no guarantee of a great job in this day and age. After job search burnout, I was faced with two options: give up and live on a disability pension, or become an entrepreneur. I chose the latter. There was no real contest. I had enjoyed a good life and I wanted to have that again.

Pillars of success

It took a lot of work and sometimes more work than necessary because I was starting from scratch. I had no role models to tell me what to do and I had no experience with business. But I managed to go from being a reluctant entrepreneur to a woman who loves being her own boss. Let me share with you what I consider to be the three pillars of success for any entrepreneur.

• No. 1 — networking.

Doing business in a vacuum is not an option. Hurdle No. 1 for me was finding out how to network and after several failed attempts, I came up with three options that I have recommended many times.

Toastmasters taught me how to communicate in the business world and it got me connected with other people who were at different stages in their own business.

At the Chamber of Commerce, I invested the small annual fee and enjoyed thousands of dollars worth of free training in all areas of business while getting to meet people who would later become my clients and colleagues.

As a member of the NL Organization of Women Entrepreneurs and the Centre for Women in Business in Nova Scotia, I met other women who were willing to share the journey with me.

It can be lonely as an entrepreneur — having a support system is great. In all of these organizations, I have formed lifelong friendships and we turn to one another for support.

• No. 2 — ask for help.

This was a tough one for me because I was fiercely independent. What I learned is that there are so many folks out there who want to see you succeed and they are all willing to step up and give you advice. Maybe because we all know how much we appreciated the help that we got along the way, entrepreneurs love sharing their knowledge with others. Learn to seek out those mentors who are willing to give back.

Online resources are amazing and I’m networking with business folks from all over the world. We always reach out to one another to develop our resources and our contact list.

Never hesitate to reach out and ask for what you need. The folks who are willing to help you out far outnumber the few who will refuse you. Learn to ask for what you need.

• No. 3 —  the importance of selling.

There is no doubt that in business you must sell yourself before you sell a product. You have to be a person of your word even when it is difficult to be true to your word. Appearance and presentation matter. Dress right and learn the language of business.

Once you have mastered your appearance, you need to learn how to sell your product. Selling can be challenging and it can mean different things for different people.

If you have a storefront and sell a product, maybe you only need to open the door for customers to see your offering. For those of us in the knowledge industry, the challenge is greater because we have to convince someone to invest in training.

Regardless whether you are selling a service or a product, there is a skill involved and you only get good at selling by doing it over and over. Don’t leave money on the table just because you do not know how to close the deal. Take a course if you have to.

You can make the best product in the world, but if you can’t sell, you’re not going to make any money and business is about making money. Money is like blood — run out of either and you’re dead.

There are other lessons, but if you have a strong network, can ask for help and have developed your sales skills, you’ll find the resources you need to be successful.

Before closing the door on becoming an entrepreneur, remember this — all skills are learned and some of us learn them later in life. You can lose the reluctance and turn entrepreneurship into a path for a good living. It is an option.

— Debbie Adams is originally from Upper Island Cove, and now resides in Nova Scotia. She is the owner of PeopleCan Training and Development, and the author of "Single Again, Now What ... A Practical Guide to Meaningful Connections." As an adult educator and coach, she enjoys helping people live more productive lives. She can be reached by email at the following: On the web:

Organizations: Chamber of Commerce, NL Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, Centre for Women

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Upper Island Cove

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