“Ama, I need your help! I need to move out of my current job. It doesn’t even matter if I am paid half of what I earn currently. I just need enough to get by, my family and I will be fine. And most importantly, I will get to spend more time with my family. Ama, you need to help me!” This was a distress call I recently received from a friend. He went on and on trying to let me understand why he needed to leave his current company. I told him, “Don’t worry, I understand you perfectly.” Coincidentally, this call came at a time when I was preparing to give my first-ever TEDx talk (TEDx Adum) on ‘The Quest to Escape My Corporate Trap’. What my friend did not know was that I had also quit my job but for a different reason.
Have you ever been caught in a trap so tight, you wanted to wiggle out but couldn’t? I would like to tell you how I was able to get out of my corporate trap, with the hope that this story will inspire you to free yourself from whatever kind of trap you find yourself in. If anyone had told me a year ago, that I would quit my job and focus on my own business full-time, I would have laughed! You see, one of my biggest fears, is the fear of being completely flat-bottom broke. And for this reason, I have worked since I was in the university because for me, working has been the only way to make money. I had a decent monthly income, which was extremely important even though it was never enough for me. I loved the security it gave me because no matter what, I knew I would get paid at the end of the month.
I was employed by a 4-star hotel as a Learning and Development Manager. Apart from my salary, I had some really nice pecks like medical insurance for my family and free lunch. It was a respectable position and I got to network with some of the industry’s top bosses. As per our company policy, our salaries were reviewed at the beginning of each year and I was very much aware that that year’s (2016) increment was going to be extraordinary. In fact, it was actually increased by over 50%; but by then I had already resigned.
I am sure you are asking yourself, what was I thinking?! Why on earth did I quit just when my job was about to get sweeter? The answer is simple: I felt it was time and it was the right thing to do. I had been at my job for 8 years. Initially, it was an amazing and challenging experience; there was something new to learn every day. I even had the opportunity to lead my department for a couple of years. However after 4 years, I could literally close my eyes and do my job. The organisation was still a great place to work at, with really nice people who had become like family to me. But clearly, I had become too comfortable and had very little challenge. I knew it was time to move.
As I prepared to quit my job, I thought about my options: to search for a new job or to start my own business? While the former was not too appealing to me, the latter was an occasional fantasy. I would sometimes imagine what it would be like to run my organisation but I never had a clear picture of what I would be doing. Every time the idea of running my own business came up, I would simply dismiss it, unwilling to explore it further. The fact was, I was terrified! I had never run a serious business before, what if it failed and I actually became completely flat-bottom broke?! I still had financial responsibilities at home! Surely, I couldn’t be that selfish and risk everything to pursue a dream that was not even clear! Besides, what was I good at anyway? Who would consult me to do anything for them? I allowed fear and self-doubt to stop me from even considering self-employment, let alone entrepreneurship. Instead I enrolled in a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) course. That MBA was my excuse to say to people who cared enough to ask why I was marking time: “Oh you know I am currently doing an MBA, it is stressful enough combining that with my life as a young mother.”
Well, after two years I was done with the MBA. I had my second degree, now what? I still had not figured out my next move even though I had a burning desire to move out of my comfort zone. Interestingly, requests for my professional help intensified as I networked with more people who found out that I was a Corporate Trainer. I would occasionally get invitations to speak to different groups on customer service, personal branding, etc. This was when it finally dawned on me that I had a business opportunity! I say “finally” because a number of very important people in my life, including my husband, had suggested this to me but I always dismissed it.
In 2015, I registered my first business called Corporate Training Solutions with the primary objective of helping our clients increase their productivity through our training and development activities. I was still working full-time then and so I could not take on some contracts due to conflict of interest. There were good businesses that I had to pass on to other consultants because I was unable to handle them. Also, I didn’t take the idea of growing my own business to the point of being completely financially-independent seriously. However, the urge to quit my job continued to grow stronger by the day and yet I was not sure what I was going to do next.
During that period, I got wind of a job offer so I decided to give it a shot. I knew from day one that I could not take the job offer for personal reasons but I convinced myself that I needed to sit on the other side of an interview session for a change. I needed the experience of being interviewed just in case I had to actively start looking for a new job. The interview went so well that we ended up chatting. Now, as I look back, I wonder if my confidence was due to the fact that I did not really want the job and was only there out of curiosity. In the end, I was offered the job but I had to turn it down.
In 2015, while still thinking of ‘what next’, I knew whatever ‘it’ was had to involve writing because I had loved reading and writing as a child. But what was I going to write about? Fashion, inspirational stories, women…wait a minute! “How about the women who inspired me as a way of celebrating them,” I thought. I had gotten so much inspiration from women who had succeeded in spite of their past mistakes, challenges and fears. Why not? I started writing about these women and then went a step further to post the stories on Facebook as a way of inspiring other women as well. With the help of an amazing team, Kwesi Mbir (Reaga Right) and Setso Ziddah (Dom 21), we created The Fabulous Woman Facebook and other social media platforms, now The Fabulous Woman Network –an organisation that is my very heart beat.
This step literally jolted me back to life! I was so consumed with writing about women, interviewing women, and organising activities to celebrate, develop and inspire women everywhere. That was all I could think of. I was suddenly alive again, happy! One time someone asked me, “Ama, do you get paid for the work you do for The Fabulous Woman Network?” With a smile, I responded ‘No’. She shook her head and gave up on me! I was so passionate about celebrating, developing and inspiring women through our activities that I did not even care if I wasn’t getting paid for it! By then, I was still hanging on to my full-time job. It was not demanding, but it deserved my attention as I was being paid and frankly, I could not continue with it. Because my zeal had died, I knew my work was done and it was definitely time to move on. However, there was one burning question: how was I going to make money after I had quit my job? Remember, I had always needed the security of being paid at the end of every month. In fact, the more I thought of the idea of quitting my job, the more I asked myself “Ama, are you ok? Why in the world would you risk everything you have for something you do not even know is there?”
END OF PART ONE
Ama Duncan is a Fabulous Child of God, Wife, Mother, Corporate Trainer, Public Speaker, Writer, Radio Panelist, Founder of Corporate Training Solutions and The Fabulous Woman Network.
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