It was September 2016 and I was weighing up my options. Do I stick with the relative security of a career in a large corporate? Or do I take a step right out of my comfort zone and start my own business? How did I get to this point in the first place?
After 21 happy and successful years at Willis Re, I found myself thinking about the next stages of my career. I wasn’t unhappy at Willis Re – far from it – but more and more, I had the feeling it was time for a change. Something different.
The question was, “what does change or something different look like for me”?
I still felt passionate about the reinsurance industry, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. I also knew that I loved training, solution development and client services. How could I do more of the work I loved?
Initially, the thought of setting up my own business did not occur to me. But when a friend and colleague floated the idea, I started to give it some serious thought. My conclusions? Scary, risky and out of my comfort zone! However, I thought that I would at least develop a plan for a business – what it could do; core offerings; how it could work; its values and proposition. I didn’t know it at the time but that was the beginning of my business, inuRE.
I really enjoyed developing a business plan. I could be creative and adventurous in a risk-free environment. I showed the plan to some close friends who are well experienced in the (re)insurance industry. I thought that they might tell me that while they liked the idea, it wasn’t really feasible. However, their reactions were very positive – you can do this!
It was time to get over the self-doubt and back myself. Time to step outside my comfort zone. I was the right person, I had the right experience and I was passionate about what I wanted to build.
Every new business needs a foundation, a starting point. Mine was that I had a great track record in providing industry leading learning support and training during my time at Willis Re. I also had great relationships across Asia-Pacific. It wasn’t long before I had my first major contract to provide reinsurance training services to (re)insurance organisations across the Asia-Pacific region. inuRE was off and running.
I had a great start to my business and before long new opportunities came from different places. A particular highlight was to partner with some of the most vulnerable nations in the Pacific on climate change initiatives. Now countries such as Kiribati and Tuvalu are dear to me.
While I still had thoughts such as “what am I doing?” and “is this a step too far?”, these negative thoughts lessened as I immersed myself in my business. I’ve been on a steep learning curve – and this will no doubt continue – but just over two years down the road I can’t imagine doing anything else.
To date, I have delivered training and consulting services to over 50 organisations and 700 people in 18 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. I have been privileged to be involved in climate change initiatives for the risk and insurance sector. I have some fantastic strategic partnerships in place and I am working with a good friend and former Willis Re colleague.
I certainly don’t want to take anything for granted or rest on my laurels. I am always learning something new and I’m always thinking of ways to evolve and enhance the business.
Two years on and do I still feel like I am outside of my comfort zone? Honestly, yes, sometimes I do, but today I know that this is normal and it means I am learning. For the business to succeed in the long-term, embracing new directions and challenges is necessary……….and exciting!
My key lessons, so far, are:
- Don’t be afraid of developing an idea and sharing it with others.
- Have a key proposition in mind, this will get you your start.
- Don’t be shy or embarrassed about approaching people to develop business opportunities – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
- Self-Promote, even if this feels uncomfortable. Highlight your achievements and credentials.
- Clients first, clients second, clients third……..and so on. This is the priority of your business.
- Listen and be open to feedback, even if it’s not what you want to hear.
- Accept that the boundaries of your comfort zone will be constantly challenged and will expand – believe it or not, it’s actually exciting!
- Never lose sight of your objectives, values and why you are doing what you do.
- Be decisive!
I am extremely thankful for the support I get from my clients, friends, family and former colleagues. Without them inuRE would not be inuRE.
Author: Gabriel Manoughian