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Practice Builder EDGE: 7 Challenges of Going Solo (and How to Tame Them) (Part 2)

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Today's post is by Rod Burkert. In one way, shape, or form, Rod has been performing business valuations since the late 1980s. In July 2000, he started Burkert Valuation Advisors in Philadelphia where he ran a "traditional” valuation practice for 10 years.


From March 2010 to March 2022, Rod traveled full-time throughout the US and Canada in an RV with his wife and their dogs. When he saw the possibilities of a location-independent BVFLS practice, he started rbCOACHING, which focuses on strategies, tactics, tools, and tech that can build/grow/scale BVFLS firms.


Today, Rod has settled in Bisbee, AZ and focuses solely on his practice building coaching … all created by leveraging his professional network, content marketing, social media, virtual assistants, and available technology.


Challenge #3 – Your emotions are tied to your revenue



As a solopreneur, I found there to be several roller coasters I was riding on. But the one I am writing about here is the revenue roller coaster.


A good revenue day meant I was happy, a bad revenue day meant I was not. I linked my self-worth to my bank account. Partly because I have linked “security” to money.


I know that allowing my mood to be ruled by money is draining. And the stress of living life based on revenue is exhausting. It has been, BY FAR, the hardest trap I’ve fallen into as a solo. And the one I am having the hardest time to crawl out of. It is THE #1 CHALLENGE I still face today.



Solution:


"Here’s what I am trying – behaviour modification. Here’s what I am learning – money follows value. Not my self-value (or self-worth), but the value I contribute to my clients. So, I am focusing on the value I provide instead of the money I make. The money follows the value (not the other way around). You must focus on the same thing.

Focus on the value you contribute and your bank balance will go up.

Eye of the tiger."


Challenge #4 – You will compare yourself to peers


Constantly. There will always be someone behind you and ahead of you.

Two of my best friends went solo just before I did. I won’t speak for either one – and even though we never had explicit conversations about it – I always wondered how I was doing compared to them.


My peers were competitors in my practice areas and industry niches. They still are. Peers will love and support you … so long as you stay in your lane, so long as you don't get (too far) ahead of them, so long as you accept their advice.


But when you start winning – really winning – not all of them might share your joy. It’s just human nature. Your peers want to win as much as you do, and they're not always thrilled when they perceive your victory as their defeat. So don't expect a supportive environment beyond your best colleagues and you won't be disappointed.





Solution:


"Attributed to Theodore Roosevelt (among others) is the adage: Comparison is the thief of joy. So why are we all so prone to do it?! "

It took a while, but I started looking at my self-selected peer group as people who challenged me to do better. Let your competition be invigorating and motivating and inspiring. And ignore the others who are not.


You can’t fail a comparison if you are following your own journey to create your own vision.

That vision will guide you – and be a better measuring stick of success – far better than letting all but your best colleagues influence your path.




Challenge #5 – You don’t know when you’re done for the day


As a result of the first four challenges, I found myself constantly working. Maybe that is human nature, too. It certainly was my nature.


I worked at home from the get-go. Before WFH became what it is today. My home was in my office and my office was in my home. Plus, there was no one (a boss or colleagues) who told me when to stop working. So, I just worked.


And even when I finally did manage to call it quits for the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about work. I had no hobbies or outside interests. And I had few friends outside of the BFVLS world … because what else did I have to talk about?


Solution:


When work is the primary orientation for your life, the rest of your life gets left behind.

It is simply not sustainable – health-wise or relationship-wise – to work all the time.


Tim Ferriss’s The Four Hour Work-Week introduced me to Parkinson’s Law, essentially that work expands to fill the amount of time you allow it to get done. Can’t finish your to-do’s by 5pm … fine, I’ll work till 6 or 7 or 8. Can’t wrap up that project on Friday … fine, I’ll get up early on Saturday and get it done.


Part of the solution is to set boundaries. Set a hard time when you will be done for the day.

Tell yourself that you don’t work on weekends. Or on vacations. Because even rechargeable batteries need recharging.


Tim Ferriss also taught me to list the top 2-3 things I needed to get done in a day. When you get those 2-3 things done, be done! Sometimes you'll finish early and sometimes you'll finish late. But you'll have defined your day at the outset, and you'll know when you’re done for the day.


If you are good at prioritising, whatever is further down the list can wait until tomorrow.

Because all of the work we want to do, or think we have to do, will never be done.



Challenge #6 – You going to feel lonesome


A big part of going solo is being alone. I found it to be fun and weird at the same time!

Because the realisation that “it’s just me” is a double-edged sword.


There was my elation – Hey, it’s just me. And the desolation – Hey, it’s just me. I quickly realised I was doing it all by myself. No matter how great my colleagues and few friends were, it was just me. There was an intense feeling of operating without a net/support group.


Solution:


Being alone and being lonely are two separate things. So do your best to avoid the latter.


Make more of an effort to reach out to your friends, not just your colleagues.


Find a good coffee shop that will allow you to consume its wi-fi for the price of java and scones. And maybe start a group or join an already existing one of BVFLS professionals who collaborate on how to turn the practices they have into the practices they want.



Challenge #7 – You are not sure if this is gonna work


Starting my own practice was a huge risk. Amy moved from Chicago to Reading, PA to be with me. Two months later, we moved again to Philadelphia.

Amy found a new job and was dealing with that plus being away from friends and family.


As if all of this wasn’t stressful enough, Amy and I were each going through our own divorces.

I had alimony and child support that put us thousands of dollars in the hole at the start of each month. The clock was always running. I felt under incredible pressure to make this work.

And I wondered if I had what it took to pull it all off.


I imagine you will pick a better, less stressful time to start your own firm. Though I don’t know if there is ever a perfect time to do it.


But regardless of when you pull the ripcord, there is going to be a feeling of “this isn’t gonna work.” Take heart, you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t have doubts. All solos have harboured doubts. We’ve all felt the anguish.


Solution:


So, what's the solution here? Well, know that you are not alone.


We’ve all passed through dark times and come out the other side. Some of us will even talk to you about it. Hey, if you will be vulnerable with me, I will be vulnerable with you.


Sometimes you just have to remember the courage it took to open your practice on day one.

That courage is still there inside you … it just may have “Gone Fishing” for a bit. You will survive … you will thrive. If you do the things you know you should be doing in order to survive and thrive.


It just takes perseverance, hard work, some luck, and the willingness to face a big dose of stress, fear and anxiety. You'll make it.


And then …


There are other traps of being a solo, but these seven are the biggies. They're tricky if you don't see them coming. However, knowing they're out there changes everything.


So what


Be aware, even when you're having anxiety attacks (and you will), that you're amazing just for your willingness to go solo. Many practitioners don’t think they could do it, so they don’t try.


But you're bold (or emboldened). You're taking nothing other than a laptop, cell phone, Rolodex, and a BVFLS credential or two and turning them into money. It's incredibly difficult to turn nothing into something.


In real life


For the actual solos reading this, how often did you nod in agreement? And maybe even laugh about what you went through (with 20-20 hindsight)? Knowing that, somehow, you always managed to live to fight another day.


For those reading this who are thinking about going solo, embrace the challenges. Because of course, the challenges can all be navigated. Many have done it before you … many will do it after you. We solos, we firm starters … we all went through the same slog.


To me, being a solo is worth facing the challenges—past, present, and future. I feel lucky to have had the challenges!


And as the saying goes: If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.


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