How I Quit My Job and Started a Successful Business

And how you can do it too!

restoration company owner

It takes planning and courage to leave a job and start your own business.

Friends and family might tell you that it's not worth the risk, but I know from personal experience that it's a very rewarding, life-changing decision.

More than anything, taking the leap sets you free to make your dreams come true.

Security Isn't Always Enough

I understand how hard it is to imagine walking away from an established position and a steady paycheck.

By the time I was 24, I had an excellent job with the deputy commissioner for Children's Services here in Chicago. It was secure employment with all the benefits, and I really loved my work.

I've always wanted to make a difference, and this position gave me the opportunity to help so many people.

For the first few years, I was sure that I would be happy until retirement.

My confidence grew with my responsibilities that included managing the budget for the city's Head Start Program. I began applying for better positions within the department, and my bosses agreed that I was a great candidate, but the promotions never happened.

It became clear that I'd reached a plateau. That's when I knew that I wanted and needed more.

Success Takes Time and Patience

From start to resignation, I put in 10 years, and I value that experience very much.

However, I knew that I wasn't fulfilling my potential or satisfying my need to do more.

It's true that you can wake up one morning and realize that you just have to make a change. I'm so grateful that my husband was supportive, and together we sat down and began to make our plans.

We decided to launch our own fire and water damage cleanup company in Chicago because we both had strong backgrounds in helping other people.

We gave ourselves five years to transition from salaried jobs to independent entrepreneurs. That's sounds like a long time, but we knew that we had to be realistic.

It was very hard.

Between my job and our new company, I worked seven days a week, but we were determined to make our business a success.

It's Worth the Wait

success roadmap

Today, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba is one of the three largest restoration & cleaning services companies of its kind in Illinois.

Our first offices weren't much bigger than a walk-in closet, and we worked in the field every day.

By the two-year mark, we hired a full administrative staff and expanded our field teams. We also earned our franchise, and that really helped because our industry is very competitive.

Since opening our doors in Chicago in 2008, we've enjoyed enormous success, and I credit our commitment, hard work and incredible teams in the office and the field.

I've never regretted leaving the government sector world behind. I'm the boss now, and I'm in a position to make a positive difference in people's lives every day.

I also feel a deep responsibility to share the knowledge I've gained.

If you're ready to take the leap and follow your dreams, friends and family will give you plenty of input.

My advice comes from my real-world experience and my heart.

1. Don't just walk into the boss's office and quit your job. Give yourself between two and five years to make the transition. Dreams don't come true overnight.

2.Use that first year to formulate a solid business plan. Even if you have a strong background in your future field, now is the time to get to know it inside out. You have to be prepared when you strike out on your own.

3. Save money, cut back on expenses, and keep driving that old car. Figure out how much you'll need to invest, and know that you'll probably need more. The first few years can be very lean.

4. As you approach your resignation date target, be sure to take advantage of any benefits that you've accrued. Don't walk away from things like tuition reimbursement or health-care savings balances.

5. Be proactive. That's not a cliché when you're starting your own business. You're positioning yourself to be in control, so make things happen. Don't let them happen to you or your plans for the future.

6. Find out everything you can about the competition. Learn from their success, but figure out what they're doing wrong so that you can get it right from the minute you open your doors.

7. Be willing to barter your services with other businesses. If you need help building a website or printing business cards, figure out what you can do in trade. This strategy also expands your new professional network.

8. Have a backup plan until things turn around - even if it's just waiting tables. Returning to your old corporate job isn't an option, so figure out what you can do if your new business gets off to a slow start.

9. Spread the good news about yourself. Let friends and family know that you're ready to go to work. Don't feel shy about selling your services to people you know. Do a good job, and they'll be your best customers.

10. Harness the promotional power of social media, but put social consciousness into your work too. Volunteer your services to local organizations, and establish your business as one that really cares about the community.

When You're Ready

company owner celebrating success

Sometimes, big dreams and everyday realities collide. It happens in the corporate workspace, and it happens when you start your own business.

However, when you wrestle with obstacles that belong to you instead of the head office, you become stronger with every victory.

In the end, leaving the comfort of a stable job is something that you can do because you want to and you know that you have to.

That determined spirit will see you through anything.

You may only be dreaming today, but tomorrow is yours when you're ready to take the leap.

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