A few days ago, the director of the ESL (English as a Second Language) program at which I teach called me into her office. She wanted to talk to me about an ongoing problem — students were complaining about me more than any other instructor. She wanted to create a plan that would help her understand the cause of the problem since I’ve had many happy students over the years, and clearly, this one was a “mystery.” She always had great faith in me as instructor; we just didn’t know what was causing the problem.
I agreed to the plan, which would include her observing me, but deep inside, I silently moaned. Instead of having more time to build my business, I’d be now spending more time trying to get to the bottom of a problem that could just be a subjective issue.
Before the new year, I’d been planning an entire year’s worth of content marketing for my website and how I’d envision my business and build my brand. Complaining students was never an issue so I didn’t have this extra “issue” to tend to, but now, it seemed, I was pushed against the corner.
On the bus ride home, I thought, “I will not victimize myself to this situation.” And so, the minute I got home, I started to give some serious thought to my exit strategy in light of what just happened. Was I responding from a crisis moment? How badly did I want to pursue clients and speak in front of a large crowd? As the emotions started to subside, I felt I could take action. And here’s what I learned from that initial twenty four hours of implementing an exit strategy which I’ll call a “make or break” moment.
1. Having a support system is crucial. It’s hard to go through something so difficult without any support. At home, I reached out to a safe group of women building their businesses on Facebook and one of the women there allayed my fears. It was tough just jumping in, not knowing if anyone was going to “hear” me, but someone need and even “held my hand” when I thought I was seriously going to lose it.
2. Starting with the first step builds courage. I told my friend I was freaking out. If you’ve been following me, then you know I’m all about “courage” – I’ve been interviewing many people about the drive it took to do courageous things. And here I found myself in that very same scenario.
In the thread, I let my hair down. “I’m so scared to let my family down. My family depends on me. I’ve got to pay bills.” In the thread she wrote, “just take the first step. The courage is in the first step.” That took the pressure off me. I wasn’t leaving my day job now, and not tomorrow. So I shared with her the three steps I wanted to do between now and Monday, and I’m happy to say, I’m making some progress.
3. Take steps towards your exit strategy while doing your day job. Barbara Corcoran, SharkTank investor of the Shark Tank, built her business while working two jobs. I know of two teachers who managed to surpass their summer income upon leaving teaching. It can be done. I figure it’s hard work, and it might take longer than I expected, but it can be done providing that I know what I’m doing and it’s meant to be.
4. Take consistent steps towards your business plan. Any successful entrepreneur knows that a plan is only so good if you are actually taking steps towards it. As of now, I’ve written my marketing action steps, which also includes my writing and marketing schedule for the coming week. Right now, I feel I’m up against a mountain
5. Create a business plan. After that encounter with the program director, I suddenly felt driven to put my road map into action. My plan was no longer something “in my head.”
So there you have it – 5 strategies to help with my “exit strategy.” Yes, implementing an exit strategy requires a leap of faith, but as Anais Nin has said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Take that first step.
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