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How to transition from employee to entrepreneur.

Cara Hirsch, Founder of Hirsch + Associates, shares her Lessons Learned.

The first time I realized what I wanted to do career-wise I was 10 years old. I vividly remember accompanying my father to open houses, his dutiful right-hand woman, eager and ardent. 

I idolized my father back in those days and was in total awe of how he would move from room-to-room, giving each person the liberty of envisioning their own lives in each house he showed. I loved how personable he was and so easy to like. An honest man, with an enviously laid-back, calm, cool, and collected demeanor. He was fervent about his job and looking back, I owe my passionate nature to him. 

As a young girl, I admired — and still admire — how he allowed me the freedom of the script. At his open houses, I would greet guests, hand them the feature sheet and parade them through each room. We would end the tour in the second bedroom, which was always the makeshift office where he would “close” the deal. 

This sentiment is something I carry very close to my heart as a business owner today. I think of my dad each time I hire a consultant or team member that may not have the most experience but just needs the opportunity to take a run at it. Like my father was, I’m always there to catch my teammates when they fall, and I’m willing to let people make the mistakes they need to make in order to flourish and succeed. 

When I was 10, what inspired me the most about real estate was the people I encountered along the way. It was the symbolic nature of buying a first home, upsizing to a second, or downsizing to a third, that was most electrifying. It was the glimmer of excitement, the way they scanned their eyes from wall-to-wall, envisioning their own selves living in that very place. 

Sometimes my “tours” were met with disapproval. Perhaps the kitchen was too outdated, or the rooms were too small. I knew at that very moment that “home” is something different to everybody. I knew then that the real estate industry was where I wanted to plant my flag.

I worked at a real estate consulting company for nine years before I decided to venture off on my own. One evening I was on a call in my condo living room, dealing with some personal items that had been causing me quite a bit of stress for a while with my previous company. All of a sudden, a large hawk started hovering over my balcony, facing directly towards me. I’m a spiritual person, and admittedly a big believer in “signs,” and I took this as one that was intended to offer me clarity and strength. 

The choice to leave my previous role and start my own business was a very spontaneous decision, and that one moment was how I determined to set the wheels in motion. I am nearing almost two years in business with Hirsch + Associates, and I can’t say I know everything, but in hindsight, I do know that transitioning from being an employee to an entrepreneur was a tough one. 

I faced two major challenges when I started. The first was that I’m a big team player and love to work with people. I wasn’t able to hire staff right off the bat, so I focused on working alongside my clients even more. This satisfied the “team” feeling that I was missing, and also allowed me to stand out amongst the crowd. 

The second was that I had expenses — and lots of them. I find the biggest apprehension with young entrepreneurs is that they don’t know where the money will come from for them to support their lifestyle and commitments. At 24, I had bought my first condo, so I feared not being able to make payments on the house I currently live in while supporting a mortgage at my other investment should I encounter any vacancies. I am thankful that in both situations I faced my fears and challenges headstrong. It wasn’t easy, but it has definitely been worth it. 

I’ve rounded up my top five tips below for how to transition from being an employee to an entrepreneur: 

Determine what you want to do and what your values are, not only as a business owner but as a brand.

It goes without saying that the journey you embark on must first be marked with a clear vision of what you hope to accomplish, and what you and your brand bring to the table. As an employee, you work under the guise of a brand ethos that was created before you got there. As an entrepreneur, you define this for yourself at the outset. Without intention, you’ll have no merit. 

A strong sense of self-worth and belief are the pillars of any successful person. Your hopes and dreams are the lighthouses that will guide you, even when times are tough. 

Take your time. Slow and steady wins the race.

Many of us want to embark on entrepreneurship and jumpstart our way to success overnight. Unfortunately, it usually takes some time. Success is many small moments of triumph that compound over time into something bigger. I like to see time as something that is on my side, rather than against me. Time affords us unique perspectives. Time allows us the opportunity to become seasoned and to become experts. Slow and steady always wins the race. Trying to fast track leads to burn out, and from my experiences, dropping the ball. 

You will face challenges, but don’t let them set you back. Learn from them and move forward.

A successful individual is someone who tried just one last time. Mistakes, challenges, failures — these are all a part of the journey. Embrace them head on, allow them to teach you something, and go forward better equipped and more confident than ever before. 

Be humble. Celebrate your victories with your team. Have an “US” mentality vs. a “ME” mentality if you want to build a strong team. 

With entrepreneurship, you won’t have senior team members dictating decisions on your behalf, or more junior colleagues to pick up the more meticulous tasks you weren’t used to doing at your previous job. I find remaining down to earth is key when it comes to starting a business, and believe me, when I say, it will humble you in ways you’ve never imagined. Never forget where you started. Never lose sight of who you are. Always be the genuine, team player you once were and you’ll be sure to have a positive impact on all those around you. 

About Cara Hirsch

Cara Hirsch is the 32-year-old founder of Hirsch + Associates , a leading real estate consulting firm in Toronto founded in January 2019. With over 10 years of experience in the Toronto market, she has sold 7,800 units and has launched 30+ successful projects to date. In her first year of business with her namesake brand, she impressively launched two large developments just shy of 1,000 units, selling just under $1 billion in revenue