How to Be an Entrepreneur: My Success Story

6 second take: This is the story of a successful financial professional who chucked it all to move to a sleepy town in upstate New York.

If you’ve ever sat at your current job and wondered if you should be doing something different, you aren’t alone.

Half of all employees age 25 to 44 have been with their current employer for fewer than four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And though BLS doesn’t collect data on how often individuals shift careers, the data demonstrates that workers in their early or mid-careers are more inclined to change jobs than previous generations.

Many people reach a critical point in their life and career when they have to decide whether they’ll remain on their current path or make a change.

At 35 years young and in the midst of a career in finance, I was faced with the question so many of us ask ourselves: “Will I be truly happy if I continue on this career path?” For me, the answer was a resounding “no.”

Chances are that you’ve been in a similar situation and felt the same undeniable itch that I felt — that sense that maybe there’s a different way to live. Maybe I can make a change and build a career that will support my life — or a better version of my life

The decision to change careers shouldn’t be made lightly, however. Here’s how I determined that entrepreneurship was the right move for me and my family, and the steps you can take to become an entrepreneur:

The Backstory

I lived in Connecticut with my wife and young family and commuted to New York City for my job in Prime Brokerage at Morgan Stanley. I managed a team of eight and was proud of how I had worked my way up in the organization. While I enjoyed my job, I had reached an important crossroads in my personal life.

The Catalyst for Change

Even though I liked the work I did, I didn’t like the life I was living. I spent more time commuting than I did at home. I never saw my kids during the week because I was gone before they woke up and they were asleep by the time I got home. Sound familiar?

This wasn’t the life my wife and I envisioned for ourselves, and we knew something had to change.

But in order for us to make the right change, we had to first know what kind of life we wanted to build so that we could make choices that would help us reach our goals.

Making the Life Change First

My wife had always wanted to move back to upstate New York, where she grew up and where her family lived. While there was a time when I could never imagine us living in a sleepy upstate New York town, our priorities had changed.

Now I knew it was the right move for us to make so that we (and our children) could have a higher quality of life.

Once we had determined the life we wanted, the next step was to figure out how I was going to support it financially.

Moreover, I had to figure out how I was going to do that without falling into the same trap of a grueling work schedule that ate into the overall quality of my life with my family.

Getting a New Job vs. Creating One: Do I Want to Be an Entrepreneur?

To build a new path, I considered two options:

  1. Get another job somewhere near our new residence in upstate New York.
  2. Start my own financial-planning business and work for myself.

Ultimately, I realized that getting another job wouldn’t foster the overall life change that my wife and I wanted — one that offered more choices and greater flexibility. And there was always a part of me that liked the idea of running my own business.

From the time I spent in private wealth management earlier in my career, I knew I loved to help people overcome their stress about finances and to work with individuals to align their money with their values.

My destination was clear. I wanted to become a financial advisor and run my own financial-planning firm. Now all I had to do was create the roadmap to turn my dream into a reality, as so many entrepreneurs had done before me.

How to Become an Entrepreneur: The Practical Steps

Starting a business and succeeding requires careful planning and preparation. And when you decide to change careers and build a business from the ground up while you have a family to support, the stakes are high.

So I did exactly what I advise my clients to do today — I made a plan to reach my goals. I went down this list and planned for each stage accordingly:

1. Worst-Case Scenario

What is my greatest fear? Failure. What happens if I fail to become an entrepreneur? I can’t support my family. Would it ever get to that point? No, because I would correct course or take another job well before that would ever happen.

2. Training and Education

What additional training and education do I need before I can execute my vision? In my case, I took the necessary steps to earn my certified financial planner designation.

I also worked for a financial planning firm for three-plus years so that I could gain the necessary hands-on experience.

3. Financial Preparedness

How much savings would we need to cover our expenses if I didn’t earn an income for two years?

We wanted to keep our financial life and goals on track as much as possible, even during the start-up phase of building a business. Becoming an entrepreneur can make that difficult at first, but having the right amount of cash reserves makes starting a business possible, especially when you have a family that depends on you.

4. Business Planning

What is my business and what services will I offer? How will I get clients? How will my business grow and evolve over the next five years?

Starting a business is the first hurdle. Growing a business for the long term comes next. That’s where I am today.

What I’ve Learned About Becoming an Entrepreneur

Several years ago, I launched Lake Road Advisors based in Binghamton, New York. The biggest thing that I’ve learned since starting down the path of entrepreneurship is that I have what it takes to succeed.

Starting a business — especially later in life — is scary and full of uncertainty. But I am so happy that I took the chance on myself.

Now I see my family every day. I can take time to be present in moments that I would have otherwise missed while working for someone else. Today I lead a fulfilling life helping other people make smart financial choices that can help them live fulfilling lives, too.

I look forward to the challenges I face in growing my business because no matter what, I’m writing my own story and building my own path into the future.

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