Samantha Chambers-Skeggs is a change management leader who recently published her first book, Ditch the Ladder.
She speaks with The Australia Business Executive about her journey into entrepreneurship and her
lessons in empowering others with practical insights to step off the corporate ladder and start their own business.
Before moving into consulting, you had a successful career in major corporates including PwC and Qantas, what did you learn from their environments?
The opportunity to work with great colleagues and work on some great projects in those organisations helped me build essential skillsets around leading others, stakeholder management and business fundamentals quite quickly. They were great environments to perfect career behaviours like professionalism, discipline and a results focused attitude.
Also, having worked in many varied roles from finance to continuous improvement to ones where I was engaging and leading people through change, having respect for others was paramount. On a similar theme, the concept of change and understanding the impact on people when change occurs in the workplace, whether cultural, technological or strategic, was certainly an epiphany moment for me. Change is a constant in business and it is happening at an accelerating pace across industries and businesses so engaging and leading people in change and taking them on your company’s journey is critical for success.
What was your motivation to “ditch the ladder”?
Living a fulfilling, rewarding life and a life of purpose suddenly became paramount and I realised that was only going to happen if I made a significant change in my life. My motivation and drive that had helped get me to where I was in my career had tapered, and I was essentially operating inside a comfort zone that, while very familiar and unambiguous, was no longer challenging.
The motivation to create a future that would be dictated by me not someone else was there however, and I had the courage to consider how I could improve the lives and businesses of others on my own terms using my learnings and experience that I had acquired in corporate.
Knowing that I had value to add in encouraging others to experience positive change, as well as play smarter not harder and focus on strengths was a key driver.
So often I hear people say to me that now is not the right time. I had those thoughts as well – I’ll start thinking about it tomorrow, I’ll make a change next year etc. For a lot of things that involve significant change, there never really is a good time. There will always be something that could have the potential to slow down or impact what you’re doing. Taking action, no matter how small the steps, fuels one’s motivation even more to pursue a desired destination.
What lessons did you face moving from employee to business owner?
There are so many and ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ could sum up the learning experience. My top three lessons are:
o Planning: It’s exciting and enticing to jump in and set up a company, create a website and spread the word you are self-employed or are in business though you are less likely to get a favourable outcome if you haven’t done some planning. As important as foundations for a house, cracks will appear in the ground work if not solid from the start. Things like articulating your why, vision, understanding your strengths, and formalising a business plan are all important.
o Performance: You need to focus on your discipline. Corporate environments provide structure – there are policies, procedures, start times, finish times, hierarchies etc. When you start working for yourself this structure becomes loose. There is no one to look over you. There is no boss to answer to. Having a disciplined mindset for how you manage your time, your finances and generally managing yourself and others is key.
o People: While it sounds grand, being your own boss is a tough gig. Surrounding yourself with good people who can help by providing expertise, clarity and motivation is key.
Who is the book aimed at?
The book endeavours to fast track career transitions, help avoid the pitfalls that come with entering an unfamiliar world where success requirements differ, and provide guidance that it is as much about personal growth as it is business. Ditch The Ladder is aimed at empowering people in corporate who lack satisfaction, have lost passion for climbing the ladder, have innovative business ideas yet remain hesitant to make a move.
Statistics from The Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education indicate that for all small businesses that start out each year, just over half are still in operation four years later. Further, according to an independent study by Servcorp, it takes up to a year for Australian entrepreneurs to overcome fears and doubts before starting their business. These fears included concerns about money, fear of leaving a secure job, failure and perceived lack of expertise.
Starting a business involves substantial change. When I moved out of the corporate world to ‘go it alone’ in business I discovered there was a lot more involved in surviving the transition. The new skillsets, behaviours and ways of working which were required differ markedly from the corporate way. I understood the fine line between success and failure and that the time and cost involved were easily underestimated. I was compelled to devise critical steps and strategies to avoid becoming another statistic.
What sort of organisations can benefit from your services, and how?
Those interested in finding, and capitalising on, the value that exists and can be enhanced in engaging people in the organisation to live the organisation’s strategy, values and journey. When change is being experienced in an organisation, there is a key transition for people to go from, being a position of comfort to a future which is uncertain. Those who need help in guiding people through transition and making it a priority. Engaging people and managing change can be tricky. There is an art to juggling the interesting juxtaposition of change, being both the emotional and the pragmatic components of shifting from a current state to a desired, but somewhat unknown, future state.
Find out more about Samantha Chambers by visiting: www.samanthachambers.com
To read and download the full profile click on the cover image below. To view this editorial as it appeared originally in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.