Start Up

When I started my consulting business a few years ago, I thought I knew what I was doing.  Starting my own business was an old dream conjured up every time I was sick of office politics and the roulette wheel of re-engineering, right-sizing, downsizing, layoffs. (Pick your favorite euphemism.)  After I was downsized yet again, I took the plunge.  That’s when I realized that no matter how well I had planned, there were so many things I didn’t know.  For example, I didn’t know:

  1. How hard it is to hone a marketing pitch. I went through dozens of elevator speeches and 60-second “songs” in the first year trying to find what resonated with potential clients. I believed in the services I was selling but seemed unable to convince potential clients that I was worth hiring.
  1. How hard it is to set a price for my services. Should I charge by the project or by the hour? If I charge an hourly rate what is fair to me and to the client? I’m still not sure I know the answer to this question.
  1. How hard it is to talk about money to people. When should I start talking about money with a prospective client? What if the prospect decides she/he can’t afford me?
  1. How quickly money runs out. I lived frugally but still blew through my severance package and savings before landing a big client. This is the part of starting a business that most of us get wrong, according to the pundits. It always costs more to start a business than we anticipated.

In spite of all the things I didn’t know when I started my company I recently celebrated another year in business. Along the way, I’ve discovered plenty of new things I didn’t know when I started my business.  One thing I definitely know: I want to continue this journey of business ownership.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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Filed under Business Savvy


  1. Pat Hairston

    Great article! A reminder of the challenges of starting a business.


  2. Norma Shirk

    Thanks, Pat! After almost 5 years in business, I still learn something new every day. It’s a constant challenge to improve.


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