I wrote to all of you a few weeks ago that I was getting serious and finally writing my book. Many jaunts of procrastination, indecision, jolts of caffeine and crinkly foreheads later, I have pieced together an outline which I would like to run by you. Keep in mind it is a first draft.
When I wrote the original post, a number of you asked if I would share progress of the book on the blog as I wrote it a la Naked Conversations and The Long Tail. (I laugh as I place my book in the same sentence as these bestsellers, but hey, a girl has to have a dream.) I think this is a great idea, as you can help me shape and refine the book since so many of you are living through what I am writing about! I just ask a few favors:
- Could you make your feedback as specific as possible? If you hate something, tell me why and what would be better instead of something like "What a stupid thing to put in there!" or "What were you thinking?"
- Don’t get too hung up on chapter titles. I am going for basic content in this phase of the outline and will go for the witty and creative titles later.
- Please don’t be offended if I don’t respond to each and every comment personally. I would really love to do this as you have taken valuable time from your life to help me out … it is just that these days, I am barely keeping up with a lot of projects on the burner, a 16 month old underfoot and the realization that I have to spend most of my time writing if I want to get this done. I will be going down to 3 days a week of babysitting since my bonus son (otherwise known as stepson, he is just so much more than that!) is starting college again next week. I am trying not to whine, just to apologize for my rudeness in advance.
So now that we have context and snippy, too-much-information disclaimers aside, here goes the flow. I include a couple of my comments in blue:
The purpose of this book is to provide information, tools, resources and support to smart, creative employees of corporations who have a raging desire to start their own business. It covers the specific period of time between realizing that your soul will shrivel up and die if you don’t leave your cube to the glorious day when you hand in your letter of resignation to your stunned boss. Many other books cover the nuts and bolts of starting a business such as getting a business license, creating a marketing plan and hiring good employees. For this book at least, I will skip those things and deal with the difficult, sticky and confusing time of trying to figure out how to start a business while still working 80 hours a week.
Chapter One: Rebel Yell – An Open Letter to CXOs:
One of the main reasons I am writing this book is the dysfunction and despair I saw in many years as a consultant to corporations. Many of you read my "Open Letter" post and agreed that corporate leaders are driving their creative, intelligent employees out the door by their foolish behavior. My letter was a swan song to my own corporate consulting days, and I want to make good on my promise:
"So now I want to help your employees leave and start their own business. Regain control of their life. Feel blood pumping in their veins and excitement in their chest as they wake up each day. "
This chapter will include the context for why I wrote the open letter, the overwhelming response from frustrated corporate employees around the globe, and what I intend to do about it with my book and blog.
Chapter Two: Why corporations today cannot provide job security, no matter how hard they try
Anyone who thinks that taking a job as a corporate employee today is more stable than generating their own income is in for a rude awakening. Corporate jobs can be tremendous training grounds for learning about business and management, as well as providing temporary income streams. But if you look for a long-term, till-retirement-do-us-part work relationship, you are in for intense heartbreak. This chapter describes what has made corporations constitutionally unstable (such as radically changing marketing conditions, outsourcing, mergers and acquisitions, frequent top management changes and pressure from globalization). I will include tips for getting the most from your corporate experience while you are still there (some from my "Open Letter to Employees").
Chapter Three: Start with your life, then your business
My buddies at Startup Nation know that the first step to building a great business is to build a plan for a great life. You must define what kind of home life will make you happy, healthy and fulfilled before constructing your business. Otherwise you won’t have any decision criteria for choosing a business that is right for you. Your business should support your life, not the other way around. I will cover how to create your life plan in such clear detail that you will become a possessed madperson who won’t sleep until the vision comes true. (if I actually accomplish the goals of this chapter, I should get an extra "0" on my publishing contract, don’t you think?!? Lord knows I will try.)
Chapter Four: I know I will be a great entrepreneur, once I figure out what to do!
To survive in corporations today without going completely insane, you must swallow your inner, intuitive voice that expresses your true desires. How else would you make it through excrutiating 3-hour, 350 PowerPoint slide meetings without throttling someone? In order to create a business that expresses your purpose to be on earth (a big order, I know, but true), you must re-learn how to listen to your true desires. I will include ways to identify things that you are passionate about, the type of work that you are meant to do and the type of business that expresses your gifts the best.
Chapter Five: Figure out the money puzzle
Although we know that corporate life is no longer stable, the one big benefit to working in a cube is the neat benefit package that accompanies your paycheck. This package is one of the main reasons why miserable employees stay in jobs they hate. If you want to feel comfortable out on your own, you will need to take a total financial assessment of your life and figure out how to get the compensation and benefits you need as a self-employed person. You may need to make a plan to pay down debt or cut back expenses while you are in the critical start-up phase of your business. Until you figure out the money puzzle, your fears will keep you from moving forward with your dreams. And with good reason. No one wants to give up a paycheck only to go into debt and see your business whither on the vine.
Chapter Six: Get your family on board
If you are to make it through the many challenges of owning your own business, you are going to need the support and encouragement of your own family. To get that, you may need to have many conversations about what the change will mean from everyone’s perspective, what kind of support you need and how to work together. Your spouse may have deep fears about financial insecurity that need to be addressed, and your teenagers may not be thrilled at suddenly having Mom or Dad work from home. From the first conversation where you break the news to your spouse to ongoing ways to keep your family connected to your business, this chapter will outline a good way to get your family’s support while supporting your family.
Chapter Seven: Create a new tribe of friends, mentors and supporters
If you have been a corporate employee for awhile, chances are most of your friends or mentors are employees themselves without a lot of experience starting a business. In order to move your business idea forward, you must expand your social and professional circle to include successful entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and even angel or venture capitalists. But how can you do that with a crushing schedule and no clue how to break the ice with unknown people? It isn’t as scary as it seems, especially today with all kinds of new media, online forums and social networks (including blogs of course – how do you think I met all you nice people?).
Chapter Eight: Make a learning plan (god this is an awful title. Any suggestions that don’t sound so "corporate HR-ish?")
Most corporate employees view "development plans" with distain as they are thinly vieled attempts to make you into less of a free thinking rebel who questions authority and more of a bland corporate drone who cheerfully does as you are told. This learning plan is a completely different beast and is the true test of your ability to successfully start a business. How do you specifically define what you need to learn to start and run your new business and obtain this knowledge and skills? I’ll include a mix of options from internal corporate training classes,mentors, new assignaments, outside classes, conferences and websites.
Chapter Nine: Prepare for the gutwrenching terror that true change entails
While all this change is very exciting, there will be many moments when you question your own sanity. You may experience truly terrifying fear, and visit with all the self-doubt, who-do-I-think-I-am anxieties that ever plagued you in your life. This fear is a critical part of your transition to entrepreneurship and cannot be avoided. In fact, it is to be embraced as fear is the secret to unlocking your creativity and enthusiasm. Learn ways to understand, diagnose and snuggle up with your fears so that they don’t push you back into "safe" (which really are unsafe) work situations.
<Chapter Ten: Defining your critical infrastructure and operation needs> (I am debating about including this chapter since it is contained in so many other books. Do you see it as necessary in this book so that someone won’t have to go searching somewhere else for the info?) What are the critical things you need to acquire or purchase in order to get your business off the ground? What are the basic technology needs for a home office, what marketing materials can you not do without and what equipment or services are necessary for launching your business? How much will this cost?
Chapter Eleven: How do you get the initial startup funding for your business?
Securing money to start your business is a huge concern of first-time entrerpreneurs. What are some different ways to get money for your business? Is it possible to get bank loans if you have no track record as an entrepreneur? How do you find angel investors or venture capitalists? Should you fund your business on credit, or will that put you at risk?
Chapter Twelve: Making the leap
Many people fantasize about the day that they finally give notice to their corporate job and deliver Jerry Maguire-like speeches, or profanity-laden tyrades hurled at their manager and annoying co-workers. Don’t fool yourself. Act out your fantasy exit speech in front of your friends and family at home and act like a professional at work. Learn what you need to do to have a smooth exit from your job, what information and contacts you can and cannot take with you and how to potentially turn your former employer into your first client.
Phew, that’s about all I got in me for now!
I really, really appreciate being able to share this with you at this stage in the game. I am actually under a real deadline since we will be shopping the book to publishers in New York next month (fun and scary … more on that later!) so if you get a chance to send quick comments in the next few days I would be eternally grateful.
As I sit back, I feel so thankful that I have surrounded myself with so many smart, creative, encouraging, thought-provoking friends through this blog. It certainly has been a magical mystery tour and I am so glad you are along for the ride.
Enjoy your weekend!
P.S. If you would prefer to call to tell me your comments, I would be happy to talk. Just send me an email and I will give you my phone number and Skype details.
P.P.S. Spellcheck in Typepad is taking forever for some reason and my babysitter is going to turn into a pumpkin in 5 minutes. So forgive the misspellings (or is it mispellings?)
P.P.P.S. I also don’t know why the "email this … subscribe to this feed, etc. showed up in the middle of the post under Chapter One. Ignore it!