5 Minutes With… Mary Cummings

Welcome to the latest in an ongoing series of entrepreneur interviews for The Small Business Blog. These short Q and A sessions are conducted by myself and feature some of the most exciting figures in the business world.

Our latest interviewee will be familiar to any regular readers of the blog. Mary Cummings is the founder of the Work Your Way community for freelancers and also a regular contributor to this blog and many other places too.

Mary-CummingsWhy did you become an entrepreneur?

I disliked my life as an employee. I didn’t like the commute, the office politics, being told what to do or how to do it, and I certainly didn’t like the crazy corporate hours.

At the time, I don’t think I felt particularly entrepreneurial. I have no entrepreneur role models within my immediate circle of family and friends – everyone I know has a “proper” job. It’s just that I knew I wanted to do something I was truly passionate about. I also wanted a flexible lifestyle that would allow me to enjoy my young family. An opportunity soon arose for employees to take voluntary redundancy. It was an ideal time for me to evaluate what I really wanted out of life – an opportunity that I embraced with both hands.

That was ten years ago. I started out providing small business marketing support to businesses in my local area. It was during that time of trying to juggle a business with young children in tow, that I came up with the idea of forming a support group for others like myself and so, Work Your Way was born. I manage Work Your Way alongside my client work.

What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?

Running the company! It doesn’t matter how brilliant your business plan is when you first start out. Nothing prepares you for just how tough it really is to run a business and more importantly, to keep it going. You need to learn so much on the fly while at the same time keeping the business afloat and profitable. It is all too easy to start-up. It is, however, incredibly difficult to keep the business going, one/two/three years later. I’d say that probably the biggest challenge has been just that – keeping it going, closely followed by growing it and learning how to scale up.

Name one thing you have learnt from while in business, and from who.

I’d like to name two things, as they both mean so much to me.

I’ve learnt that you need a very clear vision of where you want to be in life – both business and personal, as one affects the other. It is your vision that impels you to keep getting back on that horse when something topples you off. Of course you also need to set goals along the way, so your goals need to be closely aligned with your vision. But ultimately, at least for me personally, my vision is what I keep my eye firmly fixed on.

The other important lesson that I’ve learnt is that you can’t run a business alone. Working for yourself doesn’t have to mean working by yourself. Even if your literal business structure means that you are running the business as a sole person, you’ll do far better by teaming up with others to form mutually beneficial partnerships or ventures. This can prove to be a fast track for you, either by strengthening your position in the marketplace or simply diversifying.

Do also join support groups such as my own at Work Your Way for self-employed parents, or Enterprise Rockers for micro-businesses. The advice and support you’ll receive from business owners within these groups will be extremely beneficial. At the very least, find a business mentor who you can seek advice from when you have those all important decisions to make. When you make a bad decision in business, its impact can be far reaching and potentially damaging. You may as well seek advice beforehand and save yourself the pain!

What are your business and personal goals?

Work Your Way is taking me into some exciting new territories, some of which include workshops commencing this October, so I look forward to seeing how these pan out. My next personal goal is financial. I look forward to seeing how that pans out too!

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Being an entrepreneur is both exhilarating and frustrating. It is something that only other entrepreneurs get. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who will provide you with the type of support that you’ll need to keep going. Above all else, love whatever it is that you’re doing.

Big thanks to Mary for participating!

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