What is Life without Lanyards?
This book is a guide for every public servant who’s wondering if starting a business is the right choice for them, and how to go about it.
There’s plenty of books for start-ups out there already, so what makes this different? Two things:
1) I wrote this book specifically for public servants, so every piece of advice is designed for you. A few of the basic themes you’ll find in other small business books (like ‘creating a marketing plan’). What’s unique about LWL is that we come at this issue from the perspective of public servants. Based on your training and experience, what are the hurdles you’re likely to face? What habits do you need to unlearn?
2) It doesn’t just tell you how to do things; it shows you what life as a small business owner might look like, through stories of people who’ve done it and lived.
There’s one thing that this book isn’t: A list of commandments, that I’ve issued from the top of my gigantic pool of money as I look back on my decades of success.
Way back when I started writing LWL, I decided that the world didn’t need another of those books. Distant. Impersonal. This book is written from the perspective of someone who’s still down in the trenches with you and can talk directly from that experience. I’m still learning. My mistakes are just as useful as the things I’ve got right, and I share all of that with you.
Read a sample chapter
Networking doesn’t have to be a drag. Find out how you can gather people around you for support, learning, and maybe even profit.
What’s in it?
Down to brass tacks. In LWL, we’ll cover…
The state of the service. What it’s like to be working in the public service right now, with the pros, the cons and the cutbacks.
Defining your ideal career. What drives you? We also look at entrepreneurship to bust a few myths. Not even Richard Branson is Richard Branson all the time. We get real about the reasons many people are hesitant to quit, money and stress being two of them. Don’t worry, though. We’ll be honest, but positive. No parades will be rained on. At the end of this section, you’ll be a lot closer to making your decision with confidence.
Essentials of business planning. What’s your business idea, and does it have legs? Once you’ve fixed on a business model, we’ll look at your skills and assets. What do you already have that’ll help you start out? What skills do you need to pick up before you launch?
An exit strategy & a forward plan. We talk timing. Should you quit outright, or ease out gradually. If you aren’t leaving by choice, there’s advice for you here too. You’ll find out what you absolutely must have before you set up shop – and what you can pick up and refine along the way. Marketing, suppliers, mentors and networks are all covered in exquisite detail.
Resilience. Running a business can be immensely rewarding, but it can also be a damn hard slog. We’ll introduce you to some concepts and resources that’ll keep you going.
Meet the business owners
When I was writing the book, I spoke to 13 business owners. Each one of them has made the shift from public servant to self-employment. One or two are still part-way through that process. In Life without Lanyards, you’ll hear their stories.
Maurice Downing: from agricultural marketing to tender writing
Maurice worked for many years in the public service. Now, he runs Corfocus, a consultancy helping businesses across Australia bid for Government contracts. He’s also the author of ‘Winning Government Tenders.’
“You’ve only got one life to live, and I wasn’t going to spend it pushing papers up the chain, when people don’t really want to make a difference.”
Scott Monson: from change management to coaching, facilitating and speaking
Scott is a speaker, facilitator and accredited coach. His expertise includes coaching to strengths, developing social intelligence and overcoming fear. Scott is also regional director of the McGuire Program, working with people who stutter.
“What you do has to excite you enough to get out of bed every morning. You need to motivate yourself and keep yourself on track, because in small business there isn’t anyone else to-do it. “
Karen Porter: from corporate governance to installing windows and doors
Karen owns Solace Creations. Her business sells uPVC windows and doors in Canberra and the surrounding area. Solace Creations was the ACT winner of the 2014 Telstra Business Awards.
“So many businesses go broke in the first year because they think they can just go out there and sell. I’m very intuitive and I’m a people person, so I thought I could sell, but really there’s nothing in the public service that prepares you for that.”
Dev Nagarajan: from assessing patents to home automation
Dev Nagarajan runs Modern Automation. His company delivers complete home automation solutions, from lighting control and alarm systems to home theatre.
“The frustration I have in the public service is that the only reward you get is your salary. If you do something great, you don’t get the recognition. In my business, if I do something great, I get rewarded straight away, because I see the growth.”
Phillip Jones: from events management to stakeholder relations consulting
Phillip Jones is Director of the Two Degrees Group, a stakeholder relations consultancy with clients across Australia.
“I didn’t want to be in the public service, but I did want to keep making a living. Short-term contracts meant I could build up a consulting base and have something tangible to show for my work, instead of day-in-day-out, like a mouse in a wheel.”
Time Hyde: from project management to sales and marketing
Tim Hyde launched the RiotACT — Canberra’s online news source – in 2000 with a group of friends. In 2013, the RiotACT won a Smart Company award for best search strategy. Tim draws on this experience to advise businesses on sales and marketing strategies.
“I always felt like a bit of an alien in the public service. I want to-do the most possible with the least amount of stuff. I don’t think that attitude defines the public service. It felt like management was more intent on spending the budget to make sure we got it again the next year.”
Chris Miller: from business continuity management to consulting in the same field
Chris Miller runs B4 Crisis: a business continuity consultancy. She advises organisations on what they need to do to keep functioning through a crisis. Chris is based in Canberra, with clients throughout Australia, and internationally.
“Working as a consultant also creates a different dynamic to being in Government. As a consultant, people actually want you there. There are often paying very decent money for the pleasure of your company, so they’re more interested in your advice and generally treat you better.”
Sharon Costigan: from human resources management to consulting in this field
Sharon runs Peppertree People Solutions, a HR and Business Consultancy. She works with businesses across the New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
“The public service can be an unreal environment. I came into it from a healthcare background where you’re dealing with life and death on a daily basis. Then in the public service I was hearing people running around saying ‘This is urgent! We have to-do this right now.” One day I lost my temper and said “Is anybody dying? Well it’s not urgent then.”
Sonja Pryor: from government communications to PR and farming
Sonja runs Redgrass communications, a PR practice specialising in events management and marketing for the agriculture, community and not-for-profit sectors. She also owns a farm.
“I’d held senior PR management roles in the public service, but I just got frustrated at all the political games at the senior executive level.”
Karina Dugard: from program delivery & evaluation to coaching
Karina runs Evoke Change– a coaching practice specialising in developing personal resilience and clarifying people’s life purpose.
“I’ve finally found my intellectual home. I was at Uni for full-time for six years, and for ages afterwards, I would shudder every time I drove past the University. Now I’ve actually found something I’m excited about.”
Lynda Leigh: from records management to speaking
Lynda runs Bright Spark Speaking. She presents tailored presentations on customer service, communication, resilience, and networking.
“I realized that I don’t work ‘normally.’ I am not meant for a normal office with normal people, so really the only option is to work for myself. I’d already lost my job. I had nothing to lose. I think about what happened as a brick wall. It’s behind me not in front of me.”