I found myself hanging out with my brother David's college friends, many of whom were women. This was just before their senior year at New York University. I expected tremendous excitement and enthusiasm about finishing up and getting out on their own. Instead, I learned they were anxious about landing jobs and launching careers. These were sophisticated girls: no lack of ego in this group. They were genuinely concerned about their ability to get in front of employers to beat the competition. If they felt this way, I could only imagine what was going on among students at less competitive schools.
So I began to envision creating a venue for bright women from all colleges and universities—not just the big ones—where they would feel comfortable and confident as they met face-to-face with top recruiters. In essence, I'd give them that foot in the door.
I made lists of the companies I wanted to attract to my events. I could see women walking through our doors in perfectly polished business attire, résumés in hand. I heard the buzz of the busy ballroom as hundreds of conversations took place amid the smiling faces and the exchange of business cards. I even scouted locations and got cost estimates from my top choices.
It was then that I had a very strong sense of what the business would be. With my focus sharpened, I put together my first career expo just three months after leaving that magazine job.
When I meet aspiring small business owners today, they're usually bursting with excitement over their big ideas. Their faces light up as they tell me about their incredible product or service. They envision customers lining up to buy. They can't wait to get going.
To these people I always ask one simple question: "Why? Why do you want to do this?"
Most times, the responses fall into the same categories: earning money, pursuing a passion, being their own boss and making the world a better place. All noble goals, of course, and I happen to share them. But I think to improve your odds for success, you need deeper and more personal motives. The further you dig, the closer you are to unlocking your true motivation.
Only when you own your "why" will you know you have that commitment to be ready, willing and able to tackle all the challenges that small business ownership will throw your way. That "why" is the fuel to keep you hustling.
What's really behind your desire to launch a business? Are you determined to insulate your family from the financial blow of a future pink slip? Do you want to control your time so you're more available for others? Have you sworn you'll never work for "the man" again? Do you believe that you could have greater influence and success by going out on your own?
Insulating my family from the repercussions of a corporate decision was my initial impetus. So right before I started Women For Hire, I created a visual representation of my why. It was a heart-shaped poster with photos of my husband, Peter, and our kids. I laminated it at a copy shop. Looking at it every day was all I needed to stay on track, to focus on the big picture. Get out your photos and do the same thing when you discover your "why." Create a visual reminder and post it as your silent cheering squad to help you and focus and to fuel that fire in your belly.
From "Why" to "When"
Women ask me all the time, "When should I quit my day job and work on my business full-time?"