Monthly Archives: November 2016
Almost everyone dreams, however briefly, of being an entrepreneur. The independence, the passion, the flexibility—these are all attractive prospects, especially after a long, gruelling day at a conventional job. Who among us hasn’t imagined what it would be like to be our own boss?
No matter how exciting entrepreneurship may seem, it isn’t for everyone. It takes a special person to conceive a viable idea, make it grow into a successful enterprise, and nurture it through inevitable ups and downs. Some lack the zeal, confidence, and work ethic; others, the money and time. If starting a small business isn’t suited to your personality, you’re in for a long, hard road.
If you’re on the fence, here is a starting point. This assessment won’t give you a definitive answer, but if you answer “no” to one or more of these questions, entrepreneurship probably isn’t for you.
- Do you enjoy challenges? There’s nothing easy about establishing your own business, so you’ll need to relish a challenge and enjoy new experiences, no matter how anxiety-inducing they are.
- Are you competitive? Whether your business is unique or an innovative approach to an existing product or service, be prepared to face competition.
- How well do you handle risk-taking? If you’re risk-averse, you’ll find the entrepreneurial lifestyle stressful, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sustain it for long. Even highly-successful business owners will have to make calculated risks at some point in their careers. On the other hand, if you’re “comfortable with being uncomfortable,” you’ll be right at home!
- What’s your approach when spending money? You have to spend money to make money, but unhealthy spending habits are hard to break, and can do serious harm to your business.
- Can you handle long-term commitment? Growing your business means you’ll be pouring your resources and time into the same project, day in and day out. It won’t always be fun, interesting, or successful, so you’ll need to know that you can weather the tough times—and there will be tough times.
- Do big decisions scare you? Decisiveness is one of the qualities entrepreneurs must possess if they hope to succeed. Running a business means you’ll be faced with all sorts of decisions, and many of them will involve huge expenditures and frightening risks. If you believe you can handle these decisions under crushing pressure, you’re likely to be an excellent entrepreneur.
- How do you respond to stress? Burnout is common for new business owners, since they work long hours with minimal support (or none at all). Coping with stress and exhaustion in a healthy, efficient way is key.
- Is persistence in your nature? Throughout their journeys, many entrepreneurs contemplate giving up. A strong work ethic and zealous passion aren’t always enough. While it’s important to practice self-care and avoid unnecessary stress, entrepreneurship means refusing to fold under significant strain.
While these questions can serve as a springboard, remember that there’s no replacement for research and hands-on experience. Even if your personality matches that of the ideal entrepreneur, you still need to discover whether your idea is viable and, if it is, whether you actually want to pursue it. Examining your chosen field, starting your business on a very small scale, and interacting with other entrepreneurs are additional ways to test the waters. You can also get out and participate in entrepreneurship workshops or programs, such as Ventures, DECSA’s program for entrepreneurs with disabilities. After all, studying entrepreneurship on paper is nothing like the real thing.
Myth: Asking for help makes you weak.
Many people are socialized to believe this but it is smarter to avoid working in isolation. Humans are naturally cooperative, so functioning as an island goes against nature. Feeling indebted to someone else can be awkward, but overcoming this awkwardness to lean on others shows strength, not weakness.
Myth: You’ll figure it out on your own, somehow.
Sure, it’s likely that you’ll manage on your own, but why manage when you can excel? Collaboration can yield the best results, especially if you work with people whose aptitudes are compatible with your project. Some assignments just aren’t possible to complete by yourself in a given time frame. By refusing to ask for help and struggling along on your own, you’re actually missing out on potential networking and relationship building opportunities.
Myth: People don’t want to help me.
Don’t get us wrong: during particularly busy times, your peers may be stressed and unable to take on further tasks. However, most of the time, people like to help, as altruism makes the reward pathway in the brain light up like a Christmas tree. When you specifically seek someone out for help, they may feel especially useful. Lastly, picture your own reaction: you’re willing to help others, so what makes you think they don’t want to help you, too?
Fact: Asking for help is worth it.
Don’t let these myths discourage you from asking for help. If you’re specific about what you need and why, and direct and polite when asking, you’re likely to receive the help you need. And if they say no, ask someone else, or adjust your plan for completing the assignment. In addition to meeting your targets, accepting help from someone is likely to lead to an even better relationship built on trust and mutual understanding. Of course, never forget to give a heartfelt thank you and make sure you pay it forward! Next time someone asks you for help, return the favour, if you can.
How can DECSA help you?
DECSA is available to help Albertans overcome barriers to employment and education. Individuals looking to exit the sex trade are invited to join our Transitions program, where we provide supports and encouragement to escape the sexual exploitation lifestyle. Youth between the ages of 15-30 with a visible or invisible disability are welcome in our Assets for Success and Time for Change programs, where we assist them in getting the skills and making the connections necessary to enter the workforce. We also offer a unique program for entrepreneurs with disabilities called Ventures, which assists with business planning.
So why not reach out for help when you need it? There’s a lot to gain and little to lose.
You’ve begun to notice something disturbing: one of your coworkers is behaving strangely. They’re constantly late, but their excuses are vague. They always seem to have one minor injury or another, and are uncomfortable when you ask what happened. They frequently receive personal phone calls—phone calls that appear to upset them. They’re preoccupied and startle easily. They seem anxious all the time, and they refuse to discuss it.
If you’ve seen any of these signs, it’s possible that your coworker is experiencing family violence. While the situation is delicate, there are steps you can and should take to reach out to them.
In recognition of Family Violence Prevention Month, we’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts when bringing up the issue with a coworker. We hope you’ll never have to use it, but since 25% of violent crimes reported in Canada are related to family violence, it’s important to have this information handy, just in case.
Asking the Question
Bringing up the issue can be awkward for both of you, and the way in which you ask can mean the difference between a positive response and a total refusal to speak. Approach the process with care.
- Don’t assume all victims are women: if you see suspicious signs consistent with family violence in a male coworker’s behaviour, remember that he may be dealing with family violence. Men make up roughly 50% of victims, but struggle to report (and are rarely believed when they do).
- Do maintain confidentiality: ask the question in private, so that your coworker doesn’t feel pressured or uncomfortable. Reassure them that, whatever happens, you’re a safe person to speak to.
- Don’t jump right in: first explain the signs you’ve been noticing, then express general concern. A good place to start is to ask them whether there is anything going on at home.
- Do be gentle: if your coworker is taking time to respond or has difficulty getting their words out, listen patiently. An open ear is one of the best ways to encourage a response.
- Don’t push the issue: if your coworker clams up, becomes hostile, or insists nothing is wrong, back off. You can’t coerce them into discussing what’s going on. All you can do is reiterate that you’re there to support them, and keep the offer open.
Handling the Response
So, your coworker has revealed that they’re experiencing family violence. Now what should (and shouldn’t) you do?
- Do emphasize trust: it isn’t easy to report abuse, so you must ensure they know that you are a trustworthy person. Breaking their trust could lead them to develop trust issues long afterward, so be very careful.
- Don’t judge: it’s natural to want to tell them that their relationship is unhealthy or to ask them why they would stay in that type of situation. You may even be tempted to mention that you, personally, would never tolerate abusive behaviour. Remember that one of the most harmful ways to handle their admission is to make your colleague feel judged, so keep your opinions out of the conversation and focus on how you can help them move forward without judgment or shame.
- Do thank them for telling you: acknowledge that it wasn’t an easy thing to do, and tell them you’re grateful they trusted you.
- Don’t ask for details: discussing the abuse may be painful for them, so don’t ask why it’s happening or how severe it is. Probing for specifics might cause them to become uncomfortable and abandon the conversation altogether.
- Do remind them that they’re not alone: it’s essential that you stress the fact that you believe them. If they know that at least one person is looking out for them, they may feel inspired to seek further help.
You’ve opened a dialogue with your coworker, they’ve admitted they’re being abused, and they’ve indicated they’d like to take further steps. Where should you go from here?
- Don’t tell them what to do: victims are experts on their own situations, so no matter how strongly you feel, remember that your role is to support them and make them aware of their options. The rest is up to them.
- Do encourage them to reach out to others: suggest that they talk to a supervisor or human resources professional, who may be able to alert security of any potential threats to their safety.
- Don’t initiate rescue missions: your coworker may have reasons for staying in an abusive relationship that don’t include love or loyalty. For example, they may be financially dependent on their abuser, or may have their children’s safety to think of as well.
- Do ask open-ended questions: your coworker may be able to list concrete ways to help them. Maybe you can screen calls from their abuser, document signs of abuse, or accompany them if they need to exit the building during the work day. They will know their needs best, so ask them for suggestions and respect their wishes.
- Don’t offer conditional support: make it clear that whatever they choose to do, you will always be there should they need any other assistance. Perhaps one day, if they decide to take action, they’ll be able to lean on you.
When Lawrence received the diagnosis for the ADHD he had had his entire life, he was in a very dark place. He was so depressed, in fact, that he did not know where to turn, and wasn’t sure how he’d continue to deal with his “scattered mind.” Unsure of which direction to take, he stumbled upon DECSA and joined the Ventures program.
The Ventures program suited his entrepreneurial spirit, and DECSA was vital in his recovery. In addition to his mental health struggles, he was plagued by physical issues, adding another barrier to his success. He confided in our staff, allowing them to help him understand the changes occurring in his life. The program helped him hone his existing skills and understand his disability more clearly. It was at DECSA that Lawrence realized ADHD didn’t have to be a barrier—and that it could even be an asset.
“I started understanding myself and what I could do in this world,” he said, “and realized that DECSA was a place where I felt safe.”
After he left the program, Lawrence searched for a way to use his entrepreneurial spirit and newfound confidence. Some friends of his, also entrepreneurs, invited him to help reinvent a company called Combined Insurance. The company has been around since 1922, and under the leadership of Lawrence and his team, it has made a stunning comeback.
Lawrence describes Combined Insurance as a company dedicated to helping people “prepare for, work through, and recover from life trauma.” Combined Insurance focuses on filling in the gaps of existing medical insurance, supplementing health plans and insuring those who would otherwise struggle to be covered at all. The aim, Lawrence says, is to sit clients down, figure out which difficulties they’re facing, and help them understand the benefits they already have. From there, it’s just a matter of providing the extra assistance needed to walk the client through their recovery, whatever it might look like.
Lawrence explains that his own trauma and recovery gave him an edge: he is able to understand what clients are going through more intimately, and can demonstrate to them that he’s been through trauma of his own. This places him in a unique position to help them recover from their own experiences.
“I want [clients] to know that I’ve been in dark spots too, that it’s okay, and that we can move forward together.”
For Lawrence, it’s all about community. Being around people who have suffered through dark times reminds him of how far he has come, and allows him to fulfill his life’s purpose. Even though he no longer works with us, Lawrence remains strongly attached to DECSA and the community we serve.
“I’m a big fan of DECSA. I could not have found my mission and purpose in life without them. DECSA is a place I can call home.”