Prep School: The Intro

Allison Barbera: Certified Wisdom Talker Since  2008.

A psychic once told me that I’m a Wisdom Talker, which is an old soul who gives valuable advice to those around her. Now, she definitely should not have said that to me. I already secretly thought I was a fantastic advice giver, but her validation made my incidences of unsolicited advice skyrocket. I’ve tried to rein it in and will now often ask a friend who is venting “Would you like me to just listen or do you want my input?” But when you come to my blog, you’re in the Wisdom Talker’s territory.

There are a ton of things I’m not qualified to give advice on. Raising children, cooking, training for a marathon, beekeeping–I could go on and on. But when it comes to small businesses, I think nine years of successfully running one makes me qualified to drop some knowledge. I don’t have all the answers and I’m sure there is a lot I could be doing better, but there are also some things I’ve learned that others may find helpful.

A friend of mine is considering opening a business and she recently asked me to be her mentor. (Ego inflation: 6,000%.) I wrote her a series of emails about what I’ve learned and it made me think, Can I share this with other aspiring entrepreneurs? And now here we are.

If you are thinking of opening a business, you’ve got a lot of research and preparation to do. That’s a whole different blog post. What I want to wisdom talk to you about today is how to prepare for the reality that the people around you may not understand your career. Starting a business (including freelancing) can be overwhelming and stressful, so being as prepared as possible with not only the business side but the reactions you may encounter will give you a leg up. I don’t want it to be a shock to your system if some of your relatives or closest friends back off from your relationship or give you shit for your new lifestyle.

Unless someone has owned a business, worked closely with the owner of a small business or had an entrepreneur in their family, they may not really get the demands of your business and how that has to be your priority. Please know that I’m not saying this in a holier-than-thou way. It’s just that it can be difficult for a person who is not an entrepreneur to fully grasp what that means, just like I’ll never truly know what it’s like to be a parent or a professional athlete. But if you are thinking of opening your own business, it might be helpful to be prepared for some of the misunderstanding you will likely encounter.

When you announce that you are starting your own business, you’ll ideally be met with support from your friends and family. Hopefully it stays that way for the length of your business, but don’t count on it. Unless everyone around you is an entrepreneur (in which case, LET ME IN YOUR CIRCLE), there are going to be some people who don’t understand your new lifestyle. Some may support you fully at first, but when it affects them, it can be a different story. If you can’t make it to their bridal shower because you have clients that morning or you can’t go on a trip with someone because you need to invest every extra penny in your business, they may see that as you not being a good friend/relative. Before opening AB Beauty, I had worked in enough small businesses to have an inkling that this would happen, which is why I told my crew early on “I’m probably going to be a bad friend for a few years.” And I did miss a lot of stuff (partly due to the fact that my job requires weekends) but I held on to most of my friends.

This is not a reason to not start a business. There will be people around you who support you and understand that there are things you need to do for your business–especially during the early years–but that doesn’t mean you don’t love them or want to spend time with them. My tactic has always been to explain where I’m at and why I can’t do certain things at the moment, but also to be there as much as I can in other ways. So maybe I couldn’t afford to go out for a friend’s birthday dinner when I was struggling to make my rent, but I’d definitely call her after her first day at a new job to see how it went. Bachelorette parties have usually been impossible for me because they are almost always on a spring, summer or fall Friday or Saturday night and I normally have to work the next day. But now that I have a real income, I can take that bride-to-be out to dinner to make up for it. And the schedule flexibility has allowed me to drive a friend to a doctor’s appointment on a Tuesday morning or help my cousin unpack at a new apartment on a Sunday after a wedding job. The people who have stuck around, supported me and not given me a hard time for cancelling plans because of a last minute job call mean the world to me and they are the ones I make an extra effort to see and be there for.

This was initially going to be one blog post but I haven’t even gotten to the first category yet, so I’m going Series style. My hope is that the upcoming posts will be helpful to not only people who want to start their own business, but to those who are close to small business owners and think “What the hell is this job?” If your partner, sibling, close friend or roommate is starting their own company, maybe it would be beneficial for you to have an idea of what their career life may be like.

But mainly, this is your prep school, aspiring entrepreneurs. Opening a business is risky, unpredictable and scary as hell. But if you can go into it being aware of some of the issues you may face, that’s going to help you in the long run. You know that quote “Over-prepare then go with the flow?” Yes. Do that.

And I want to take a second to say THANK YOU to the many supportive friends and family in my life. They far outnumber the non-supporters and for that, I am immensely grateful. I love you and I’m sorry I missed your _____ last _____.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

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