Startup Diaries: Breaking Out Of The Comfort Zone

Patricia Baronowski-SchneiderPatricia Baronowski-Schneider, President and Founder of Pristine Advisers, talks to The Next Women about leaving a secure job and taking a leap into the unknown.

Staring up my business was a scary thing to do. I was always a creature of habit and one who relied on “feeling secure” in a job. My second job out of high school while putting myself through college was one I stayed at for 16 years. I would probably still be there today if the company had not decided to shut down my department. Some call that silly. I called it being comfortable.

Once the company shut down the department, I had to make the move to a new firm. Ironically, all of my clients followed me to that firm where I stayed for the next six years. At that time, I had some decisions to make. Sure, I was secure in the job and comfortable there, but as with most things in life, I often felt things could be better.

Suddenly, however, one day there were rumors going on about a company buy-out and people were dropping like flies. I needed to quickly decide whether I should stay there and see what happened or go completely out of my comfort zone and start my own business. The economy was not doing very well and creating my own business was certainly something I had never done, or thought much of doing, prior to this.

Ultimately, I decided to take a chance and do it. I spoke to current colleague, as well as a former colleague, and shared my thoughts. I pitched my idea and both were on board. Next were the clients. I contacted all of them and again, each was willing to follow me to my new firm because of their previous relationship with me.

All of this started to give me a bit more confidence about my decision to start my own firm. The fact that my clients (10 of them to be exact) were willing to follow me through three separate firms made me realize just how valuable I really was. They had options every time – to go to another firm or to stay with me -- and each time, they opted to stay with me. That is probably the best compliment of my work that I could ever ask for.

So, as the New Year’s Ball was dropping in Times Square, I was writing my resignation letter to the firm where I worked. Needless to say, my boss at the time was not too pleased with me for my “sudden” decision to change landscape, but as it turned out, the rumors I’d been hearing turned out to be true and shortly after my move another bought out the firm. Long story short, my department would have been phased out, again.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

I have to believe that someone was looking out for me in helping me make that most difficult decision and pushed me to take a leap of faith and start my own business at the right time.

So, there I was, starting out with a newly formed business and, boy, was I in store for some eye-openers. There were so many things I had never taken into consideration prior to opening my business, such as creating a business plan, getting insurance and liability and cyber liability coverage.

These were all things that I had to now research and undertake with no real knowledge of how to do so. Also, I needed programs and subscriptions for my business, and some cost thousands of dollars, which had to come out of my pocket. Then, after I spent several weeks and countless hours putting together a business plan – which I felt I really didn’t need, the process turned out not to be in vain. Doing so gave me an opportunity to go through the motion and see everything about my business in black and white.

So, once we were able to get through all of the mundane details of actually starting the business, I realized just how sticky the business world could really be. Prior to this, I was always an employee. I had my clients and I did my work. Now I was on the frontlines dealing with the world.

I soon learned that it’s not always a nice world and that not everyone likes you, especially your competitors.

I’ve had competitors try to sue me despite there being no real basis for a claim because, I believe, they thought they could shut me down with expensive legal fees. Others tried targeting my clients and offering them cheaper services. And, in another rare but devastating event, a client of my business bought out four of our other clients during a consolidation, which meant we lost several separate clients in one swoop. Though there was nothing we could do about it, our business took a big hit from this.

All of these things started to cause me to have insomnia and migraine headaches, which were getting more frequent by the day. So many of these types of situations I never would have dealt with while working for a company, as an employee. Now I have a whole new appreciation for my prior bosses.

Faced with so much stress and responsibility, I needed to create a new mindset. I am not a quitter.

I am also not someone who is afraid of a challenge. I also do not scare easily. Being a licensed skydiving instructor on the weekend shows that I don’t scare easily and this has helped me to realize that my competitors can try and bully me, but I am not going down without a fight: For every challenge I’ve faced in my life, I only grow stronger.

I once read a quote, “Throw me to the wolves and I will come back leading the pack.” I like to think that is me. Try and bully me? That will only make me work harder at my job. Try and take my clients away? That will only make me be more creative in my work. Try and step on my toes? That will only make me fly higher so you cannot reach them. I felt like I was back in school – when the nerd was picked on for being smart. That only helped me graduate as Valedictorian and pursue my Master’s degree, helping me get to where I am today. I accept all challenges and try to run my business with the same mindset.

Being an entrepreneur means getting thick skin, having a lot of patience and being very diligent.

Having a good reputation also goes a long way. I could be like other firms and play dirty. I am a believer in being fair, being honest and working hard. I also believe in Karma and that hard work will pay off in the end. The fact that every one of my clients has followed me through three jobs over the past 26 years, I believe, says it all.  

Of course, my competition is threatened by my firm, they should be. We are team leaders, we are diligent, we are smart, we are loyal and we are the best at what we do. We are continuously learning all the latest technology, methods of our industry, laws governing our clients, innovative ways to promote our clients, etc. It’s what keeps us on top of our game and ahead of our peers. 

Patricia Baronowski-Schneider, President and Founder of Pristine Advisers, a marketing and communications professional with more than 23 years’ experience in the financial communications and media relations industry. Patricia began her career in investor relations and financial communications more than two decades ago at Dewe Rogerson Inc. She has held various positions, primarily in the IR/PR area.

In her role as managing director in the financial communications department with The Altman Group, she led a number of IR and PR and media programs for closed-end funds, as well as publicly held companies globally. Baronowski-Schneider is responsible for developing and executing financial communication programs that position clients effectively in the financial community. She more than 23 years’ experience working in the closed-end fund arena, as well as working in the corporate communications, public relations, media relations and investor relations fields. Patricia has an MBA in business management and a BA in marketing. Patricia is also a certified social media strategist, notary public, member of NIRI, FMA International, FENG and AAII.

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