While in the midst of overcoming breast cancer, Ros Cardinal resolved to do the things she had put putting off for “another day.” One of those things was starting her own consulting business. She shares how making plans for the future and taking action helped her through cancer and helped her in her entrepreneurial career. Read how she did it below…

Ros Cardinal // Shaping Change // Organisational Development Consulting and Coaching // Australia // 40s


WHAT MOTIVATED & INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR BUSINESS?

I was working as a senior manager in a corporate role as the Organisational Development Manager, so I was doing what I loved most of the time. However, in 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42. While I was undergoing treatment, I had plenty of time to reflect on the fragility of everything we take for granted and I determined that I would start to do all those things that we put off “for another day”. One of those things was travelling and the other was starting my own consulting business. Not long after I returned to work full time following my treatment, the organisation I was in went through a period of downsizing and restructuring and the changes gave me the opportunity to make the big leap.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS…

Most of my work at the moment is with businesses and leaders who want to make a difference. They engage me to work with them on developing the right culture for the organisation, to coach the leaders and to work with teams to build employee engagement and create a better business. I coach individual leaders too and I have a couple of group coaching programs. I also write for my own blog, for magazine articles and I have a regular monthly spot with a website for women in leadership roles. Oh, and I speak at events too.

WHAT WERE THE FIRST FEW STEPS YOU TOOK TO GET YOUR BUSINESS UP AND RUNNING?

The first thing I did was to have a good long look at my potential market. Because I was involved heavily in the sector anyway, I was easily able to scope out what I wanted to do, who else was doing it, what my potential client’s challenges were, and to find a niche for myself. Once I was clear on my value proposition in the market, there was a lot of prep work to do – websites, business names, GST registration, the list goes on! My advice would be get a good accountant and take advantage of the free government advice websites for new business owners. I was fortunate that I was still working full time during the administrative set up phase so I wasn’t rushing to get everything done. Once I left corporate life, the word spread fairly quickly that I was in business and the phone started ringing!

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF RAISING AWARENESS OF YOUR BUSINESS AND GETTING NEW CUSTOMERS?

Interestingly, most of my work comes via referrals. Many of my new clients contact me because they have been referred by an existing client or contact. Referrals are the easiest way to get new business – people are calling you because they are already interested in your product or service and someone they trust has recommended you.  Be great at what you do and referrals will come. I have also had some clients mention that they saw me speak, or are readers of my blogs, but mostly they are referrals.

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES SO FAR WITH RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?

As I became busier, my biggest challenges are running out of time and my unwillingness to delegate! It’s a common issue for women in small business. It’s our “baby” and we think nobody else will care for it like we can. I’m getting better – I have an associate who started with me earlier in the year (he is awesome) and I have just engaged a virtual assistant to help me handle social media and copywriting for my online product line I am developing. She hasn’t started yet, but I am looking forward to handing things off.

HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES?

It was a matter of finally recognising that I can’t do everything. My business coach asked me to make a list of all the things I could delegate and when I did that, it was obvious that I didn’t need to do it all (so obvious really!). I recognised that I was actually holding the business back because it was taking me longer to do things than an expert would. I was wasting my billable time doing tasks that I could pay to have done. I had some anxious moments when I first handed client work to my associate, but I get great feedback and I know he is doing a fantastic job. So far I have also invested in web development and I am handing over a lot of the accounting and book keeping in the new financial year.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

I love what I do and I love seeing my clients grow and prosper. One of my key values is “making a difference” and, in my business, I get to do that every day. What’s there not to love! I could also mention the freedom of choice and the fact that I am writing this article sitting in my home office on a weekday, in my yoga pants with vanilla candles burning and my pet birds singing to me.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER ENTREPRENEURS?

I actually wrote an article about this a few months ago. My key tips are: Understand how to run a business. There is accounting, administration, social media, insurance, marketing and many other necessary tasks. When you start out, you won’t be able to afford to outsource all the things that need doing. Build your networks. Let people know you are setting up a business. Join new networking groups. Offer to speak at local business events. Become a mentor. Give generously and it gets returned. Invest in your learning. You are truly adding value for your clients if you are up to date with the latest in your industry. It costs money to go to conferences and accreditation programs, and to be a member of professional bodies, but investing in your knowledge is the best investment you can make. Don’t panic. There will be ups and downs. You will win some contracts and not others. Your diary for the next quarter will be almost empty one minute and full to capacity the next. You need to be secure in your ability and confident that the next opportunity is just around the corner. Love what you do and have fun!

HOW DO YOU KEEP MOTIVATED THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES?

You know, I am not sure that I will ever have a more difficult time in my life than my cancer diagnosis. When I think back to that time, my keys were to keep focusing on the future. I gave in initially to the shock and grief and had a few really good cries. After that, I picked myself up and focused on the fight. Every single day I looked for positives.  Going in to the hospital every day, I would look at other people being wheeled in for treatment and be thankful that I walked in under my own steam and didn’t need a wheel chair. I ticked off the treatments in my calendar day by day, I made plans and got on with life. I think you can apply the same focus to a business. When times are tough, it is so easy to get inward focused and negative about yourself. Dust yourself off, make plans and take action!

DO YOU HAVE A BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY?

Do what you love and it won’t seem like working! My business is purpose and values driven. I am clear on my purpose “Releasing True Potential” and my business values. I recently started using the personal tagline “The Leadership Alchemist” because I help ordinary leaders and become leaders of great value.

When I face a big challenge I…

chunk it down into manageable bits – eat that elephant one bite at a time!

My greatest fear is…

not living life to the fullest – leaving something great undone.

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is…

after battling cancer, I would have to say it was raising my young kids as a single mum with no support networks.

If I could go back in time to when I was 20 I would tell myself…

don’t drop out of university – its sooo much harder doing it when you are working full time with a family!

I believe…

that every person has the capacity to be great. Sometimes they just need some help to see their potential.

The biggest lesson I have ever learned is…

no matter what your circumstances, you will succeed or fail according to your attitude and beliefs.

My favourite business tool or resource is…

gosh, I have lots. My favourite at the moment is Buffer for scheduling my social media updates. I love that when I read an interesting article I can buffer it from the browser and into the queue.

My favourite quote is…

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor E. Frankl


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