Andrew Colliver is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Melbourne, Australia and co-founder and CEO of Banjo Loans, an online lender that supplies unsecured loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises. Andrew learned valuable lessons during his transition from the corporate world to entrepreneurship, so we asked him what he'd tell people considering the leap into business ownership. Here's what he shared:
So many of us fear or dread change, but to what end? Life is a series of changes from birth to death--both minuscule and monumental. How we react, navigate, and grow from these changes is a critical aspect of our journey.
I spent two decades as a corporate banking executive, growing more and more frustrated that I couldn't attain what I wanted to achieve. When I encountered a serious health scare five years ago, I reevaluated. As a result, I left the corporate track, transitioned into the role of co-founder and started my entrepreneurial journey.
My business philosophy is to be resilient and learn to endure pain. I also make a point of embracing change, even though I don't necessarily enjoy it.
If you're considering your own entrepreneurial venture, here are six things I've learned along the way that may resonate with you:
1. Know yourself--really well.
You know yourself because you've lived your entire life in your skin, right? Now add a little analysis. Search back through your life and notice central themes. When I did this, I realized I've been curious and creative since childhood, which is one reason I didn't make a great fit in the structured, corporate world.
When I left that world, I had to reassess. I spent six months thinking, landscaping my backyard and extensively researching my next step. I had heart-to-heart conversations with people who knew me best and realized I had the self-discipline and commitment to start my own business. I also realized the only reason not to chase this dream was my fear and self-doubt. And that's not a good reason to give up on a dream, is it?
My dream: Starting an online lending company to serve the small- and medium-sized business sector that has suffered from a lack of accessible capital since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. I wanted to be the best banker they could find as they serve our economy and contribute to the community. I had found my new purpose.
2. Respect the unknown ...
Moving from a structured corporate setting with two paychecks per month to entrepreneurship is a big change. In the corporate world, you generally know what your days will look like. Entrepreneurship is more like flying an airplane that might need mid-air repairs. You have to jump out on the wing and secure rivets or touch-up paint in mid-flight, but you can't let those side-gigs impact navigation toward your ultimate destination. It's more challenging, but I like the highs and tolerate the lows.
3. ... But don't give in to fear or self-doubt.
I faced the fear of using my own capital to fund the business. Now I recognize self-doubt as a harbinger of personal growth, and I do my best to embrace it. I made my share of mistakes, including the startup classic of hiring too many people before we had sustained growth to support them. We had to lay off valued employees--which was heartbreaking, and my co-founders and I went months without pay. But we changed, adapted and learned from those mistakes. I grew and became a better version of myself, more capable of facing similar challenges as they present themselves.
4. When you ask for advice, listen!
As entrepreneurs, we want to do things our way, but there's so much we don't know. It's sort of like being a teenager--you think you know how to do everything best, not recognizing that others successfully navigated similarly choppy waters before you. I received excellent advice about not spending too much on digital advertising since our company involved accountants and brokers. But, I didn't listen, which was probably the biggest mistake I made. If you're going to ask for advice, it's smart to listen to what people share. The best advice I received (and listened to) was to run an agile business that is open to constant iterations of testing, learning and adapting. And we established our vision: To become the pre-eminent financial services provider in Australia for small- to medium-sized enterprises.
5. Find your support network.
Joining the Entrepreneurs' Organization was a powerful factor in establishing new practices and thought patterns throughout our company. I know I need to continually work on developing myself and my leadership skills, and the support of my EO chapter is integral in that pursuit. I've picked up precious insights from fellow members as they share diverse business problems and the strategies they've implemented to overcome them. Maybe the biggest benefit is that I finally don't feel like I'm the only one facing difficulties in running my business. We're all in this together. Having a supportive network of entrepreneurs facing similar struggles is invaluable.
6. Revel in the benefits of being your own boss.
For several years we weren't seeing any major victories, but we kept at it, changing and adapting where necessary--and finally, our business started to come together. We implemented the right strategies, tools and people to raise $50 million in capital and received a high net-promoter score of 71, while many banks in Australia are in the negative 10 to 15 range.
But the biggest win for me is how entrepreneurship impacts my personal life. As a business owner, I have the flexibility to spend more quality time with my family. Sure, I'm working 24/7, but I choose the hours, and the work gets done. I drop my kids off at school and then come to work, as opposed to missing most of their waking hours. Striving to achieve work-life balance helps me to become more efficient and effective. I might work for a few hours after they go to bed or over the weekend, but I get more smiling, happy memories of my kids as they're growing and changing. I wouldn't trade that for any steady paycheck.
As I move along this journey, I'm uncovering and discovering a better version of myself. I haven't yet reached my highest peak, but I'm climbing steadily toward it!