Laura Yamanaka is Co-Founder and President of teamCFO, a firm that provides outsourced CFO and Controller services to small and mid-sized businesses.
What motivated you to start your business?
The illusion of control. Seriously, I did feel that I wanted to be more in control of my livelihood and time. If I was going to work this hard (in corporate), I wanted to be able to reap the financial rewards and in my field of corporate accounting, we were considered a cost center instead of a profit center. I had to get out of the overhead area and into an area where my skills could be framed as a revenue stream.
I also wanted to have more control over my time and when I worked. I found out that when you have your own business you work more hours, not less. But I know now, that this is solely my decision and not anyone else’s. At least when I am working now, I know who is deriving the benefit.
What is the greatest barrier you faced in laumching your business and how did you overcome it?
I was probably my biggest barrier in starting my business. I had to think about it and then plan for it and then Excel it and then Powerpoint it and then do all over again!
I probably wasted 2 years before I realized I just had to go out there and DO IT!
In retrospect, I wasn’t ready to start my business until my belief in the business concept matched my business plan.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find him/her?
Originally, I thought I really didn’t have a mentor. I had a fantasy definition of a mentor – someone older who had all the answers that would be with me forever and would make me feel better. As I look back, I realize I have had many mentors for the different times in my career and business, some who came into my life for a specific lesson and some that have stayed for a long time.
Some of my best mentors did not make me feel better – at least initially. They were willing to be honest and tell me the things that I did not want to hear. Mentors come in all ages, industries, personalities and walks of life. We have to be open to the lessons and counsel all around us – your mentor might not fit the stereotype!
If you could go back in time to when you were first starting, what would you tell yourself, with the intention of avoiding mistakes and heart ache?
I came from corporate America and thought I really knew about running businesses. It turns out that I knew how to manage people who could run businesses – which is very different from operating a business when you first start out.
I also would have focused on being more growth-oriented in the beginning.
What does success look like for you?
Being able to: support myself/family in the style of living that I choose, focus on my personal development and help my business clients grow their companies.
What do you do to recharge?
Whatever my body or mind needs to recharge at that time. It varies, sometimes is it is quiet time just for me, or it could be the stimulation of a rousing debate, a chance to do “non-work” reading, a good dinner with some wine and my husband, a trip to get a different perspective, a call with one of my best friends.
I try to integrate and leverage what I NEED to do for work with what I WANT to do.
What’s your advice for a woman that’s considering starting her own business?
- Always know your numbers and know what your plan is to become profitable. If you don’t operate this way, you have a hobby not a business.
- Know and hold true to your core skills, attributes and beliefs and be flexible with everything else.
- Be careful how much in free services or products you give out – if you don’t value yourself/business why should anyone else?
- It is going to be harder than you think and not for the reasons you originally thought.
- Know what skills you are lacking and line-up the support you will need before you need it.
- Become the best sales person you can be – you will never stop selling when it is your own business.
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