Starting the wrong business

Like many of you, I spent the first part of my life desperately wishing I could find my Thing – that “one true passion” that I could immerse myself in, master, and turn into a lifelong career.

And while I always knew I wanted to be self-employed, I had no idea what kind of business to start.

Or rather, I had too many ideas. I didn’t know which one to choose!

  • I played around with web design – I loved it, and there was a market for it. But I wasn’t sure it was The One, so I avoided making any commitments to it.
  • I made jewelry – I was good at it, there was a market for that as well. But again, I wasn’t sure it was the right business, so I avoided making any commitments to that either.
  • I went to school and studied Psychology… but at some point, you have to choose a field to specialize in. I couldn’t choose!

And then I created a business entirely by accident

Ironically, the business I ended up starting wasn’t based on any of my passions.

Rather, it started because I happened to be good at something, so someone asked me to do it for them – and they offered to pay me.

They were happy with my work, so they referred me to others who needed similar help. One referral led to another, and before I knew it, I had a bookkeeping business!

Be careful what you wish for… you just might get it

My accidental business began to grow… and I soon discovered that success is not always a good thing.

You see, the more my business grew, the more miserable I became. 

But I thought I was following the “right” path; creating a solid business based on market demand and a skill that I was good at.

So I figured, maybe if I built the business up even more – if I just buckled down, really focused, and made this a Real Business – maybe then I’d stop being miserable.

That’s about when I developed GERD*.

*GERD stands for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease. Which basically means that I frequently and regularly suffered from Acid Reflux, which is like heartburn on steroids.

Turns out the “right” path was all wrong for me

On paper, my bookkeeping business made a lot of sense. It should have been a good fit for me.

  • I’m good with numbers
  • I understand small business
  • I excel at helping people who aren’t good with numbers understand what the numbers mean
  • I enjoy the meditative aspect of seemingly repetitive tasks
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Unfortunately, there were just as many reasons it was a horrible fit for me.

  • I have an innate need to be constantly learning and growing – I need a challenge, and bookkeeping quickly became boring.
  • I crave novelty – repetitive tasks are soothing, but only if they change over time. Bookkeeping is bookkeeping is bookkeeping. It’s pretty much the same thing over and over again.
  • One of my greatest joys is in learning new things, and then sharing that knowledge with others – there was only so much learning and sharing I could do as a bookkeeper.
  • I’m a creative at heart – and bookkeeping is one area where “creativity” is strongly discouraged!

My nature was not built for the Bookkeeper mold, and trying to force myself into it had created so much stress, I’d made myself sick.

Which is when I realized, being “successful” was about more than just making money and having a Title.

Throwing out the bathwater, saving the baby

The interesting thing about taking the wrong path, is that you can learn a whole lot about where the right path (for you!) might be.

Bookkeeping was the wrong business for me. But it wasn’t all bad! There were aspects that I truly enjoyed.

The trick was to tease out those aspects, and figure out how to apply them to a different business… one that was suited to all my strengths.

And it turns out, while my clients were paying me for bookkeeping, they were coming to me for coaching.

The path to success is ever winding

I could look back on the years I spent trying to make myself fit the Bookkeeper mold, and bemoan the lost time.

I could regret that I didn’t start my coaching business sooner.

But that “wrong business” taught me so much – about myself, about business, about success – that instead I choose to be grateful.

By taking the wrong path for a while, I found the way to my right path. 

And because I know what “wrong” feels like, I have complete confidence that the path I’m on now is the right one.

Have you wandered down the “wrong” path? What lessons can you learn to help you find a better path?

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