In the interview, Hanna talks eloquently about the tipping point that you reach where you realise that you simply have to go after that dream of yours, no matter what the circumstances. As we’ve seen in other interviews, it doesn’t matter if the economic environment is especially difficult, or you’re pregnant with your second child, or you’re in the middle of a huge extension of your house… There comes a point when you actually have no choice, the risk of staying is bigger than the risk of going, and you decide that ultimately you have to take the leap.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should quit tomorrow and be totally reckless with your decisions; there is still planning to be done, working out your next move, making sure you do have a financial buffer. Hanna describes how she turned to different mentors and coaches to make sure that she got the guidance that she needed and to avoid the most common mistakes that people make when embarking on this kind of path.
Hanna also has some really useful advice to give on the subject of choosing your clients and charging what you’re worth – this didn’t make it into the transcript so do make sure you watch the full video interview to get all of Hanna’s insights! Something else she talks about in the video is trusting in your own instincts and not necessarily looking outwards, as we often do, for permission to go ahead with what, deep down, we know to be right.
Leaving a corporate job behind to follow your passion: From the girl sitting in the cubicle to the girl who has travelled the world
Hanna Fitz grew up in Martinique and started her career working in a good office job for a financial group. Soon, though, she felt the pull to quit and run her own business and she did so despite the difficult economic environment at the time. Today, she lives in Saint Lucia, working as an international brand strategist and business coach.
1) At what moment did you decide it was time for a change?
I was in a corporate job for about 3.5 years; I worked as a new product development and project management officer for a major financial group in the Eastern Caribbean. It was a really fulfilling job, especially as a first job as a new graduate. I had a lot of responsibilities and a lot of opportunities to help create new policies and to really make a difference, work with very senior teams… It was fulfilling – to an extent! Somewhere along the way, I started to reconnect with ‘my true heart’s desires’. I started to feel a very strong call to take action on my dreams!
But we’re talking about 2010, and that was two years after the whole financial crash in the United States, and of course the economies in the Caribbean are very dependent on what happens in the US market, especially because of the tourism industry. So it was probably not the best time to be quitting your job and starting your business! It was pretty scary for me…
When you get that ‘call’ sometimes, it can be such a strong urge that you know you can’t say “no”. You get to that point – if anyone listening hasn’t experienced that yet, it’s such a compelling feeling of knowing that this is what you need to do, and you need to do it now! I was so overwhelmed, it was so strong that I started to cry. I got a friend to sit with me and we really talked about it, and I said, “I know this is what I have to do.” And of course you go through the motions of wanting to look for a sign, am I making the right decision? I went to my family and I said, “I’m going to quit my job,” expecting them to say “you’re mad, hold on!” – but they said they understood. Of course, I come from an entrepreneurial family, so I got a lot of support from that end, which really helped.
I went to my manager and when I finally handed in my resignation – after typing it and leaving it on my computer for a whole month – she said to me, “Hanna, I know you’re ready.” I knew I wasn’t going to change my mind at that point.
I remember when I had met the company’s MD at a cocktail party a few years earlier and he said to me, “Why are you here? You seem so much more ambitious than what this company can offer you!” And that was profound because if he saw that in me several years ago – I remembered it, and it gave me the strength to push forwards, despite what I saw happening in the economy. And I decided to take a leap, take a chance on my dreams. That was seven years ago and I have no regrets!
2) What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?
One of the challenges I faced was really trusting that, yes, this is the path, that I’m on the right track – especially when you’re just starting and you haven’t met likeminded people on a similar journey. I felt that I was on this journey alone initially.
Working from home can be quite a challenge, especially when everyone else is used to having a corporate job outside the home. People think that when you ‘work from home’ you’re actually lounging all day and you have nothing to do because you’re at home, so they call you any time… It can be very challenging to balance your time!
I also had to get over a feeling of guilt because in my new career, I was having so much fun – and some days, it didn’t feel like work! I remember one day, the most incredible thing happened. I was working with a client who had a private jet company and he had me organise this business meeting with other potential clients and we flew on the jet and had the whole airport concierge and everything… I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, I feel so bad, my other friends are at work!” I didn’t feel like I deserved it, initially. It’s a part of my process, getting to that point of feeling comfortable with enjoying myself, enjoying the things that are coming to me, without feeling guilty about receiving it. That was an important thing to overcome.
3) Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?
A lot of people, a lot of mentorship, coaching… Eventually I started working with an incredible coach, one of the best salespeople I knew – of course when you have your own business, sales is a key part of what you do; that gave me a lot of support and guidance on the journey.
I also started doing a lot of personal development, reading a lot of books, following a lot of the top experts and coaches out there such as Brendan Burchard, Bob Proctor, one of my favourites is Dr Joseph Murphy, who talks a lot about the subconscious mind. I really went in and started to work on me, because I thought that was a crucial part of getting my business to where I really wanted it to be. I was the central point, I was the person driving it, and so I needed to be in the right mindset to really take it to where I need to go.
4) What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?
I think it’s more flexibility and more freedom. I get to choose who I work with, which is great. From day one of my business, especially coming from a product development background and branding, I’ve really set out the intention of who I wanted to work with, the type of clients I wanted to be surrounded by. I think it’s one of the things that I’m proud of, working with a lot of brands where I feel that I’ve helped to make a difference but also they’ve made a difference in my life. When you work with clients at that level, you are also learning certain things and getting to another level yourself.
5) What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?
I would say: Go for it! If I could speak to myself then, I would have run out of the door! The way my life has changed since then, the people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, the fulfilment I wake up with every day – knowing that I’m doing the work that I really want to do, and knowing that I’m making a difference in people’s lives and making an impact, having the opportunity to travel, being able to move to Milan and live there for two years… All of these opportunities probably would not have happened if I had stayed stuck, and comfortable. Again, it’s depleting: every day you go into a job where you know your heart isn’t in it.
For me, my mantra is that if I can’t put my heart into it, I can’t be in it, and that’s what I stand by. I have to feel passion about what I’m doing, because when you feel passionate, you’re not selling at all – people feel that passion and they get right into it with you. I’ve found that most of my sales successes have come when I’ve been very passionate and committed to the project and I’m really feeling it, I don’t have to sell myself, the client catches on and we’re on the same wavelength, we have a good match and we’re speaking the same language, connecting in the same way.
It’s not easy, though, and you have to plan. I would say: get the guidance early, because there are a lot of mistakes you might make in the first few years that could be avoided, and there’s always someone out there who has already done what you’re trying to do. Find the help that you need to lay the foundations right and to have the confidence that you have a system to work with. Confidence is so key in business!
Have you made big changes in your life and want to inspire others to do the same? Or maybe you’re 100% happy staying put where you are and want to make a case for being satisfied with what you have? Get in touch to share your story!