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Starting / Choosing a career

Starting your own business: Jumped or pushed?

Starting your own business doesn’t always begin with a well planned jump. Mine began with a firm push, courtesy of my last boss, who was in fact the last boss I had, or will ever have with any luck.

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It was 1999, I was 25 and bullet proof, fresh off the boat from the UK and ready to get stuck into Sydney life. I temped for a while at Tourism New South Wales, where I made a few pals and got to explore the state. A pretty cruisy gig, really, so when a full time role came up, I went for it.

I landed the job – secretary to the sales director. A breeze for me, I mean I had a degree from one of England’s top universities, so how hard can typing and answering phones be?

Imagine my surprise when come appraisal time, my boss labelled my performance ‘average’. Average! Me! The straight ‘A’ student! At typing! Oh, the humiliation.

There I was, coasting along and thinking I was nailing it, when I was actually stuffing it up in my own passive aggressive way.

As I blubbed my way through the appraisal meeting, an excruciating experience for all involved, I can assure you, my boss was kind enough to explain his rationale:

"There I was, coasting along and thinking I was nailing it, when I was actually stuffing it up in my own passive aggressive way."

“It’s not that you’re unable to do this job, Sam, but it’s obvious you don’t want to. So you shouldn’t do it. You’re just not cut out for it. I need more engagement, more commitment from my secretary.”

Want more articles like this? Check out the choosing a career section.

We both knew that these qualities weren’t going to manifest in me. I resigned quick smart.

In many ways, my journey into starting my own business began with that boot up the backside and I’m forever grateful for it. If I’d have had a less bold boss, I might still be plotting ‘better’ things, but failing to strike out.

It was a tough lesson, and I can assure you the stem from this freshly cut tall poppy wept for a while. But it was a critical catalyst for me, in that it got me thinking what I really wanted to do – go it alone as a copywriter.

And who was one of my first copywriting clients? You guessed it.

Winston Churchill said “I am always willing to learn. However I do not always like being taught.”

What hard lessons have helped you along? Did your journey into starting our own business begin with a push rather than a jump?

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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