In February 2022, my business turned 10 years old; some days, I wondered if I could continue another day, and on others, I couldn’t imagine ever stopping my work with young adults.
You see, I didn’t intend to start my business, it kind of crept up on me and then I couldn’t ignore it.
Back in late 2011, after the earthquakes in Canterbury had devastated my beloved city, killed 185 people and struck fear into the whole community with the thousands of aftershocks and uncertainty, I noticed that many young adults at high school had lost their way. Understandably. They wondered what the point of studying and building their skills was, when this kind of unexpected and horrendous act of nature could suddenly upend their lives.
I started using a powerful personality questionnaire, which I had been trained and certified on during my work life in Dubai, to help each young adult consider a future career and get excited about it; this helped them lift their head above the daily chaos of aftershocks and a badly damaged city, to see possibilities for themselves.
I LOVED working with these young adults, coaching them and inspiring them to want more for themselves and those they care about. A seed was planted – could I turn this into a business?
In those early days, people told me I was dreaming, they doubted my idea was viable, and they told me that I was kidding myself. I was shocked how negative people around me were.
So, I stopped telling them my dream, secured ‘real’ HR consultancy work to keep the income flowing, and set to work quietly testing and developing and shaping my coaching model and tools. I wanted to develop a fact-based, holistic career coaching model for young adults, as I knew through my own children that high schools weren’t providing the contemporary career advice that they needed.
Here’s how my business evolved over the last 10 years.
It’s been a roller coaster, and learning the business side has been FAR more challenging than I expected – I didn’t know what I didn’t know! And probably it’s good I didn’t, or I wouldn’t have started on this journey.
What have I learned over the last 10 years?
1. We are so much more capable than we think! If someone had asked me to achieve the results that I now have in 2022, it would have seemed overwhelming! But I started, bit by bit, one step at a time, moving towards the vision I had of career independence, having a purpose and fulfilling my mission of helping young adults become a greater version of themselves!
2. It’s so important to find some cheerleaders for your business! The people that I thought would support me did not, and I found fellow women entrepreneurs (some I’ve only met online) to be my biggest supporters and referrals – their generosity still amazes me!
3. Women are TERRIBLE at charging what they are worth! It takes us a long time to get our heads around setting our prices, and we doubt, second-guess and denigrate ourselves. It’s incredible to me that in my 10 years of running a business, I’ve NEVER had a discussion with a man who doubts his value, but hundreds of conversations with women about this!
4. Mothers drive families – most of my business comes from referrals, and 98% of those referrals are from mothers! We make financial decisions for our family, identify what our family needs and facilitate the difficult discussions with our young adults. Let’s lean into that skill and power!
5. Showing up consistently, through all the challenges of life, is critical in business. It can be a curse and a blessing. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and I faced the challenge of being the sole earner for my family, I had to deliver every day for my business, when the fear and grief was sparking a ‘flight’ response. Clients need to know you WILL be there (but set boundaries, so you don't become a sucker).
6. We limit our thinking on possibilities! When I started, I thought it was only realistic to work with clients in Christchurch, but within a few years (and thanks to Skype and then Zoom), I realised that I could work with clients all over NZ, and now I’m also working with those in Australia, US, UK and Switzerland. As a Career Coach for Auckland, my client base is much bigger and richer!
7. Avoid the ‘shiny object’ syndrome.
In the early years of my business, I bought courses I thought I needed but never finished, I purchased random merchandising still in the box, and I went to conferences that weren’t right for my business. I should have been more selective!
8. You NEVER get to a state of “everything in my business is perfect and I don’t need to change anything”. There is always something that can be improved! The pandemic has shown us the need to evolve and pivot, and as a career coach for Auckland young adults, I’m working with many who have become disillusioned with school and University, due to online learning and lockdowns. To help them, I have to offer ongoing support and build their confidence.
10 years has gone by fast, and I'm not finished yet! I have more ideas for building my service, and I will keep doing my work while it still excites me and while I know it is making a difference. I'm so grateful to all the wonderful clients who trusted me with their precious young adults and their future - it means a lot to me!
For 2022, my private Facebook page is my new offering - a place for PARENTS of young adults to learn new ways of thinking, as they support their young adults in exploring career and study options. You can join us here!
Thanks for reading!
Tracey Beard, CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer), career expert, coach and strategist for young adults aged 16-25, across New Zealand.
Career Coach Auckland, Career Coach Wellington, Career Coach Christchurch.