I’ve really been inspired by Sharon’s story… which I’ve posted below in Q&A format.
Hey Sharon, what’s the story of your escape?
Well the headlines are that I left my job as a US/UK tax adviser to do something different. It took me a few months (my notice period) to figure out what that something different would be exactly…
I am now pursuing my dream of being an entrepreneur, am the sole director of a startup, and am writing a business book to help startups, entrepreneurs, and businesses succeed in the US and UK.
Did you always know you wanted an entrepreneurial career transition?
No, when I first joined Escape the City I found some really exciting job opportunities. I applied for some (The Social Business Trust / Hamilton Bradshaw) but didn’t get them.
As disappointed I was that I didn’t get those roles, I knew I was getting closer. Just seeing that those types of roles existed in real life was a help to getting me on my way.
OK, can we jump back a little bit to your previous career?
Sure, I started my career with a Big 4 accountancy firm based in the US and relocated with them to London in 2007. In 2010, I joined a boutique firm based in London where I worked for over three years.
In total, I have over 12 years experience, 8 at managerial level, as a US tax accountant providing tax and business advisory professional services to businesses and their owners and investors doing business in the US and UK.
As I was getting closer to the ‘top’ of the corporate ladder, I decided time was running out if I was ever going to pursue my long-lasting entrepreneurial dreams and life outside of pure tax advisory.
And why did you decide to make a big change?
The moment I decided to take the leap of faith came at the end of my prior firm’s June 2013 fiscal year. This coincided with annual goal setting and personal development planning for the upcoming year.
Amazing! I also resigned instead of do another annual review…
I know how you felt! It was a poignant reminder for me of the disparity between my longer term professional aspirations and my current path.
The choice was made and I resigned 3 days later (with a 3 month’s working notice period).
What fears did you have about leaving the security and status of the corporate world?
The only thing that matters is whether you are living true to yourself, not what anyone else thinks. Once you get past that and you have a plan, it comes down to implementation which is by far easier than acting on your dreams in the first place.
And what about managing the financial risk?
I had a pretty bare bones plan which revolved around using my three-month’s working notice period to figure out what I was going to do next.
I had the added security of a final salary payment which included the prior year’s bonus, some savings to help me get by if things took a little longer than expected to find a new role.
And I guess I had the backup plan of easily being able to find a replacement tax job if things got really desperate.
So how did the escape plan crystallise?
Separate from the job hunt (or so I thought at the time), I always wanted to write a memoir-type book one day.
I came across Polly Courtney through seeing her escape story and reached out to her for self-publishing masterclass suggestions. I signed up for the course (she taught one of the sessions) with the Guardian and by the time the course came around several weeks later, I had decided to align my business interests with writing.
So, instead of going to the course for purposes of the memoir (although it will help for that too), it helped me develop my business book plan which is now my new role!
I know you also read a certain book whilst on this path?
Indeed. I came across The Escape Manifesto featured in The Evening Standard commuting home from work one night. I devoured it in one sitting.
This book reassured me that I wasn’t crazy and that my desire was similar to that of a much larger movement happening around the world – I found an entire network of people that were trying to ‘discover’ a way out of unfulfilling corporate jobs, just like me.
So what are you doing now?
I am now self-employed and working on two exciting projects as the sole director of Grow Great Britain and Beyond Ltd.
Project 1: The Book - author of upcoming how and how not to guide for startups, entrepreneurs, and global businesses looking to do business in the US and/or UK.
Project 2: The Blog – capturing entrepreneurial journey and sharing Top10 tips on weekly blog called 10 Things I Learned This Week as an Entrepreneur.
Do you feel like an entrepreneur?
When you hear the word ‘entrepreneur’ a lot of people think you have to be a school drop out to fit the mould or get started as early in life as possible, there is no reason that has to be the norm.
I suspect as more people have the courage to leave the corporate world behind, this stereotype will also go away.
That being said, necessity breeds action so the more determined you are to succeed, the better chance you will have.
Have you felt isolated on this new path?
There are so many resources available to help people get involved in doing things they love that there really are no excuses for those willing to put in the effort.
I have been amazed by how easy it is to get an introduction to anyone. Everyone will give you 20 minutes of their time if you approach them honestly and it makes sense.
What are the best bits of your new path?
The best thing about making this happen has been the complete shift in my internal happiness barometer and feeling like I am finally on the right path where my passion and work is aligned. I feel empowered by being accountable for my own success and have been overwhelmed by the amount of support available for those looking to start their own business or discover rewarding work.
And some of the worst?
The worst thing is the uncertainty. My business plan hinges on finding collaborators and people interested in sharing their stories to be featured in the book – very strong progress but still looking for more interesting stories – please share yours!
Any final bits of advice for people who want to do something similar?
Decide what you want from life, it’s short.
My motto is dream the life, live the dream.
Vincent Van Gogh said “I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.”
You also have to be realistic – know your strengths and focus on doing what you do best and compensate for your weaknesses.
Determine what is working with your current career, what isn’t and make changes as often as necessary to take you closer to living the life you want.
Things will not go according to your original plan. Adapt as necessary, keep going, do not give up, stay positive.
Be grateful. The more you think about how you can help other people instead of focusing on what you will get out of it, the better.
Massive thanks Sharon and congratulations on a really exciting and brave transition. Please let us know how we and Escape the City members can help you on your transition. Any interested readers should definitely check out Sharon’s “Things I Learned This Week As An Entrepreneur”
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