Stefanie Coxe, right; with her mentor, Peter Karlson at the CCYP Mentor Exchange Graduation. Photo Credit: Pomeroy Photo-Graphics

This past Friday I graduated from an eight month long Mentor Exchange Program hosted by CCYP. I was fortunate enough to have the mentor matchmaker himself, Peter Karlson, offer to be my guide through the first year of my new business.

Peter is the entrepreneur-in-residence at the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and the CEO of Neueon, a technology consulting firm he founded 12 years ago. Mentoring and “thought leadership” is really important to Peter.  As he puts it, he’s “passionate about helping other professional services consultants succeed”.

While most participants had certain concrete goals for their professional development, mine were more fuzzy: build the bones of my new business and avoid going broke. So our mentoring relationship evolved like this:

  • I didn’t have much in the way of a formal business plan, so Peter introduced me to the concept of a value proposition canvass.
  • I wasn’t sure what segments of my business should account for time spent and revenue generated in year one, so Peter instilled time tracking and using an estimator as well as revenue floors.
  • I had never negotiated a contract before. Peter insisted that I own the value of my work and should be prepared to walk away.
  • I have a great idea for a segment of my business, but Peter said “it’s only an idea until you go out and test it”. He helped me develop a roadmap for figuring out if there’s a there there.

I started Nexus Werx LLC about a month before the Mentor Exchange program began. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d be self-sustaining or racking up debt in the first year. Everyone says the first year is the hardest and you don’t make any money that early. I’m happy to say that by month seven, I was in the black and had a clear vision for the rest of 2016.

Maybe I would have figured out how to avoid shortchanging myself with clients or how to build the infrastructure of my business without Peter. But I suspect it would have taken much, much longer left to my own devices. Having someone who has been in those early days of uncertainty sharing their successes as well as their mistakes made my first year in business much more manageable.

But aside from that, there’s a real insecurity and loneliness of starting up a sole-proprietorship. No one is looking over your shoulder making sure you don’t screw up. I vacillated between two thoughts: “I’m gonna be tremendously successful” and “this is never getting off the ground”.

Having a mentor, a professional big brother, to run business decisions past, to go to for advice or just to vent, to guide me in things big and small, made all the difference in my confidence. He believed I would succeed, so thoughts like “I’m not sure I can do this” became more and more fleeting. I acted as if my business would flourish and it has.

Thank you, Peter. And thank you, CCYP!



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