My first year as an entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur has its ups and downs. Now, as Nordam Business Partners celebrates its first anniversary, I am excited to share my experience, reflections, and anticipation for what’s ahead.

New beginnings

About 14 months ago, I quit my job without having a new one. Older generations in my network warned me about the risks and ramifications of quitting and encouraged me to be confident in my next role because, after two short term positions in a row, I could forever be labelled a job hopper. But of course, I quit anyway.

At the time, my husband and I had just moved into our new apartment and spent our savings on taking five months of parental leave with our three kids. My husband’s employer had not yet implemented their current policy of 24 weeks of paid leave for men, so we covered the costs. These recent expenses meant I would need to find a new income soon.

Making my next move the right one

When I quit, we still didn’t have a day care seat for our third child, so we went for long walks around Copenhagen together. This time exploring the city with my youngest affirmed for me that my next career move needed to feel right in the bottom of my stomach. I wanted to do something challenging within finance, and something with a bigger purpose too. But I also wanted the flexibility to support and be with my family, and not just when my employer allowed me to be available.

From an idea to a company

I love mergers and acquisitions, but they can be a nightmare! A lack of data and readiness from the seller’s side has been an issue on basically all the financial due diligence processes I have been involved in. It has been personally frustrating to look at the data challenges and observe the powerlessness and stress for all involved parties. As I reflected on these struggles, I suddenly had an idea that I could be helping companies, and especially the involved C-suite, prepare to sell their companies.

I shared my idea with a with a few people from my network, and only five days later, I got a call from a CEO! They had gotten my name from somebody in my network and needed exactly the kind of service I was considering. After another two weeks, I onboarded my second client.

Nordam Business Partners was born.

Growing my one-woman-army to a nine-person business

Handling two clients alone was busy. All the freedom and free time I had imagined would come with life as a one-woman-army was a joke. Everyone I talked to within M&A could identify with the problem I was trying to solve, and I had a promising pipeline for the next months.

With clients in waiting, I was ready to hire my first full time employee just two months after founding the business. Although they were initially supposed to be my personal assistant, they turned out to have a great interest in sustainability. That interest provided an opportunity to dive into ESG services, which today holds equal importance to financial exit preparation for both our business and for our clients.

Today, we are four full-time employees and five students.

Our first-year performance

We recently conducted an employee survey with a 100% response rate. Naturally, we have things to improve, but I am also over the moon that:

  • 100% are proud to work for our organisation
  • 89% strongly agree that work gives them the flexibility they want in their lives
  • 100% agree or strongly agree they have opportunities to learn and grow at work
  • 100% believe or strongly believe that actions will take place as a result of the employee survey

Financially, we are also doing well, and we will close our very first financial year with a result before tax of DKK 1.3m.

I am proud that Nordam Business Partners is able to grow responsibly while providing a workplace where our employees are proud to work.

Reflections on my first year

I could talk forever about our services, team, ambitions and all the decisions we have made within the past twelve months. Instead, let me share some personal reflections about the past twelve months.

  • It’s a long-term game
    From day one I insisted on paying myself an equal salary to what I could otherwise get paid. This same thinking is applied to my employees. Making this choice has forced me to work hard and I cannot make excuses or choices with short term benefits that will not support us in the long run. We are building a long-lasting consultancy firm, not a great idea that can’t grow beyond the start-up phase.
  • I love the creativity and exploration that comes with entrepreneurship
    It now makes sense that I didn’t always thrive in previous consulting jobs, where I had to stick within my little chargeable-hour-box. I might be more entrepreneurial than I ever thought. I love being allowed to come up with ideas and seek out crazy perspectives from people I would never have met in my previous homogeneous world.
  • Leading is hard
    Being a leader is challenging, and I think it should be. I have not even turned 30 yet, and I think there are big differences between our students’ expectations around work and my own. I imagine them going to work with their computer in their one hand, and their resignation in the other. Some people might call them spoiled, disloyal or disconnected from reality, but I admire their YOLO perspective. I consider my ability to understand them one of our biggest competitive advantages. Consulting is a talent game that traditional firms are losing – whether they realise it or not.
  • I am biased too
    I am exactly as biased as everyone else. I had the perception that I would be able to create a diverse workplace. But hiring young women doesn’t make your team diverse if you are a young woman yourself. Or can it?
    I understand that diversity is more than gender, and now we work actively with our biases – in recruiting, in our compensation scheme, and in everything else we do. The easiest thing would be to hire homogeneous people and tell ourselves that everyone who resigns doesn’t want to work in M&A. But instead, we are trying something else. I want to give our employees a fair chance to succeed, and I acknowledge it will be a long path until we are a critical mass of diverse people.
  • Trusting myself helps others trust me
    It is funny what a corporate title can do to the perception of your own worth. I now walk with a straight back into meetings with business owners and management teams who I would have been nervous talking to just a year ago. Trusting my own capabilities makes everyone else do the same.
  • Entrepreneurship is not all fun
    The past year has been the toughest thing I have ever done. And now that I’m the owner, I don’t have the option to just quit and leave with one month’s notice.
    Approaching one year as an entrepreneur made me consider whether being an entrepreneur is for me. There have been challenges every step of the way. Luckily, it has also been the most rewarding experience from a professional, personal, and monetary perspective, and I increasingly feel that entrepreneurship is for me. I am in this to help companies prepare for transactions, to make consulting what it should be (customer-centric), and to help my employees develop. I want to continue to challenge our society’s perception of work and leadership for the benefit of my three kids and their generation.
  • It feels good to hear the cheers
    It is very rewarding when people are cheering for our successes. I am most thankful to the people around me who have cheered for me irrespective of our business performance. My husband, my brother, and the many entrepreneurs I have gotten to know within the past year have all been cheering loudly. I’ve also noticed that I receive two distinct types of support from those around me, and most of the loud cheers are coming from men. Many of the women in my life, including my friends, personal and professional networks, and even my Instagram followers share their support and acknowledge my feelings when my entrepreneurial life is challenging. I am so grateful to have their continued support and emotional care, but I would love to hear their cheers during hard times too. Maybe women should “care” a little less and cheer a little louder?

Looking forward

I am immensely proud of the foundation we have built. In the past year I not only started our business but hired employees, identified our core services, and found our market. Now, we are connected to the market and growing. I’m looking forward to bringing in a new equity owner, hiring new employees, and working with new clients in the coming months. I am excited to see where the future takes us.

Thank you for reading my reflections. You are always welcome to reach out via email, on LinkedIn, Instagram, or through Nordam Business Partners.

Best regards,

Christine Nordam

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