Year Three….hard to believe it has gone by so fast. I reflect back to the fall of 2010 when I decided to leave Corporate America after 30 years to take that leap of faith and start my own business. With only six months of savings in my bank account (was I temporarily insane?), I launched Alternative Funding Options (AFO), a company dedicated to helping business owners find financing when they are unable to obtain it from traditional sources.

Every anniversary year I dedicate my October blog to what I experienced during those twelve months as a business owner.

My first blog titled “Celebrating my Journey to a Year in Business” (October, 2011) discussed my plan and what lessons I learned along the way. My second blog titled ” Why Stay in Business” (October, 2012) was dealing with the frustrations of being a business owner, working round the clock and not yet achieving that level of success. Even maybe contemplating whether I should stay in business or go back to Corporate America (temporary insanity again). I suggested in my blog, ten tips that helped fire up my enthusiasm for business again.

My third blog, this one, is about evaluating what was working and what wasn’t and making the necessary changes to finally reaching that level of success.

Going into my third year of business, I needed to do a “check-up”. Being totally honest with yourself is important because certain tasks we enjoy doing, might not be working or generating the results we had anticipated. And the tasks that we don’t enjoy doing are the ones we might need to concentrate on more. For me, one of the tasks I enjoy doing is networking and I am considered a Social Butterfly. The networking has definitely connected me to contacts that have helped grow my business but I needed to balance that with spending more time on targeted prospecting. This required more of my time at the computer researching companies and referral partners.

I had to limit myself on the networking events I was attending. This was hard because there were some I enjoyed but I was not getting any referrals or meeting the right contacts. I ended up choosing my top 3 to join as a member and the others I would review monthly to determine if it was worth my time attending based on the speaker and the crowd they would attract that would be the right contacts for me to meet.

I needed to work on promoting another funding program that I knew would generate more income but I didn’t have the time to spend on it. So I partnered with two associates that had the experience and knowledge and they have been able to develop and grow this other area of financing.

I tapped into an area of skill that I had with writing in helping to educate business owners and my referral partners on alternative financing. I wrote monthly blogs and became a contributing columnist for a business newspaper along with submitting articles to other news outlets. This has increased my creditability and exposure for my company and the services that we offer.

I reviewed my marketing materials including my website and realized it was time to make some revisions. My testimonials were only on LinkedIn and my blogs and articles were not showing on my website. It was becoming more time-consuming to direct prospects and sources to various links and sites for them to obtain all of the information that they would need. Going through this process, I became more knowledgeable in what was going to improve my search engine optimization (SEO) and the more content I had in my website, the better in increasing my SEO rankings (this was all foreign to me).

I am happy to say that all of my hard work the past two years has finally paid off and going into my third year, I exceeded my expectations! I have been crazy busy which is great but with just me servicing the business, I wasn’t able to get out and meet with new referral sources or stay in front of the ones that I have developed partnerships with. Not good, so I was needing to quickly figure out a solution. Luckily, two of my referral sources approached me and were ready to make a career change (taking that leap of faith for themselves) and wanted to be a part of AFO. I am truly blessed since they are FANTASTIC and would have been my top choices!

I am excited about the opportunities and the journey going into our 4th year. As I reflect back to the fall of 2010 when I took that leap of faith, I was so scared and unsure of my future and whether or not I would succeed. Even going through my two years in business, I had my moments of uncertainty. But, I was very passionate and loved what I was doing. I enjoyed getting up every morning and was excited about what the day would bring (still do) and how I would be able to help a business owner find the financing they needed to grow their businesses and reach their level of success. This kept me motivated and moving forward. I also surrounded myself with mentors and positive people who encouraged and inspired me.

On my desk framed, is a card that I found right before I launched AFO and I read it every day. It says:

“Imagine yourself doing what you love and loving what you do, being happy from the inside out. Experiencing your dreams wide awake, being creative, being unique, being you – changing things to the way you know they can be. Living the life you always imagined!”