I recently read an article about Helen Cooke, founder of MyPlus Consultancy.
There is a great quote from Helen on her website. “I don’t believe I am any more special than anyone else, but I do believe my disability has given me something extra”.
It is this “something extra” that Helen tirelessly talks to organisations about helping them to realise the advantages and strengths of attracting and recruiting disabled employees, including graduates.
This approach really caught my attention and seemed such a positive spin on disability; that the circumstances that set you apart from non-disabled people also contribute to your strengths. The key, it seems, is to recognise what your strengths are and put them forward.
When starting your own business you are more than often selling yourself as much as you are selling your business idea. Whether it is negotiating a business loan or pitching for investment, decision-makers are deciding whether you can do what you say you’re going to do. Do they feel you have the skills and experience to carry out your business plan?
Rightly or wrongly; it is up to you to sell yourself and your strengths and this is particularly crucial as a disabled entrepreneur.
You need to be aware of your strengths and to pre-empt any concerns straight off; to accentuate how your unique abilities will contribute to making your dream happen.
“To know what to do is wisdom. To know how to do it is skill. But doing it, as it should be done, tops the other two virtues.” Learning what to do and how to do it; reading online articles, taking courses, following blogs can provide you with valuable information; but is there any substitute for taking that first business start-up step for yourself?
There is of course much to be gained by learning from the experiences of others and the knowledge they can pass on to you from further along the business learning curve. As well as imparting valuable information, possible contacts and processes that you can apply to your own business, learning and research is often a catalyst for further inspiration and ideas. Something to drive you forward. Perhaps you can see a new way of doing things by modifying existing management within your own organisation?
It can be useful to not only grasp the business basics, but also to understand the importance of applying what you’ve learned, whether it is concerned with people management or product promotion and marketing. And in order to apply what you’ve learned you need to take that first step and start your business.
Once you are on your way you will find that every day you need to solve problems and learn new things. Indeed, this is one of the great things; the most exciting aspects of running your own business. My experience has shown that the small business world is generally extremely supportive with a lot of help available once you establish a network within your chosen industry/area. There will be people out there with time to talk and something useful and helpful to say.
Of course there will be some things that no research can prepare you for. The harder edges of managing people; the inevitable grumpy customers; the emotional stresses and financial strains that lead you to really question the courage of your convictions.
Ultimately, it’s all about a good combination. Have the idea. Arm yourself with business basics for your plan together with as much relevant research as possible. Start to gather your network of contacts. And go for it.
“Individuals ‘wishing they could’ are certain to be passed by those ‘thinking they can.”