26 Aug 2012

Aretha Franklin, Mentors and Me



I really love what I do for a living but there's no denying that self-employment can be challenging. Conversations with my peers highlight the fact that it takes time to get used to the rollercoaster of finding steady work and trying to get paid on time. When several companies don’t pay when expected it’s a recipe for disaster, or a nervous breakdown, whichever comes first.

It’s a steep learning curve and just when you think you've mastered it, someone puts a spanner in the works. The hardy amongst us brush ourselves down and carry on, others opt for the comfort of a ‘proper job’ with a steady wage and paid holidays. 

I first set up a business nearly five years ago. (If you are self-employed you’ll know that means I was in at the deep end without any arm bands.) At the time I could have won awards for attending networking events. Enthusiasm was my middle name. I stumbled upon people twenty years my senior, who generously took me under their wing and became unofficial mentors. They gave their time and knowledge, they gave me a kick up the backside, they listened, they guided but most of all, they believed in me.

My first business venture was not a money spinner and I made mistakes but still, they believed in me. I changed direction and have landed on my feet because of what my mentors taught me and for that I am extremely grateful. I have the utmost respect for them. They taught me to be brave enough to ask for help and about what I refer to as ‘The Aretha Franklin School of Business’.

Aretha Franklin has an amazing talent; she always looks the part and performs to the best of her ability. She knows what songs she is comfortable to sing and she knows when to pass the microphone. Aretha Franklin became a success because she knows all about R.E.S.P.E.C.T and if you respect your customers, yourself and stay true to your values then you can’t go far wrong.

If the Queen of Soul isn't your thing then there’s practical advice available through organisations such as PSYBT, Cultural Enterprise, and ICASS and TED Talks is a great place to learn from other people's experiences. Nearly five years down the line the best advice I can give anyone is to believe in yourself. If you have the skills, but self confidence is your biggest hurdle, then surround yourself with straight talkers who have faith in you, and it will all work out in the end.