From corporate manager to entrepreneur

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It is likely that some of you would have goals of one day becoming an entrepreneur and running your own business. I want to share with you my story of that transition a number of years ago.

Early career success

I was always what you would call a relatively ambitious person and had high expectations of career success and financial rewards. I could not wait to start earning money and start learning skills.

My early career work was in market research and then in mainstream marketing. During this time, I experienced career success with a number of successful projects and believed I was making a significant contribution to the success of the large companies I was employed with.

I targeted well-known companies and within 10 years I had an impressive resume of key employers and a track record of success. During this period but also completed my MBA on a part-time basis.

My transition to entrepreneurial life

So by the time that I hit age 30 I believed I was in a strong position – with skills and education and with perhaps too much confidence – to become that entrepreneur that I had dreamed about being.

I believe I took the right path to an entrepreneurial venture – accumulating some capital in my own right and developing skills experience in the training ground of corporate life.

At age 30, I came across a business opportunity within a new industry that appeared to have significant potential. My corporate background have been banking and finance and this business venture was in the bottled water market that was just starting to ramp up at time. Regardless of my lack of direct experience, I felt this was an opportunity for me.

A steep learning curve

One lesson I quickly learned is that there is a significant difference between management and project skills required within a corporate position and the skills needed to run a small start-up business.

In a large company, I was specialist surrounded by other specialists operating within an established business practice with significant amount of resources. In a small start-up business you are it. There are no other specialists – and usually no other staff – everything is new, there is no structures in place – and probably worse of all there is very little revenue at the beginning and no capital (except your own) to draw upon.

It was a little bit of a shock to my self-esteem to realize that I wasn’t this amazing business person that my corporate resume seemed to suggest. There was certainly a lot to learn – there was a lot of responsibility – and a lot of sleepless nights.

A slow start

Over time the business would grow and is still operating successfully over 20 years later. However, the first six months were very questionable and I had many second thoughts about returning to corporate life. We started in the wrong target market, we had no idea how to acquire customers at a low-cost rate, employing casual/part-time staff was a major headache. Staff turnover was relatively high in the beginning and constant training of new staff was time-consuming.

In this initial period, I would suggest that the support of other key people is critical in a continuous need to dig down to enrich your motivation and to find the belief that this business will work if I keep going at it.

Financial tip

Despite my years as working as a marketer in a corporate life and having to provide financial forecasts – that generally proved reliable – my financial forecasts for my start-up venture was very optimistic.

I once read a very valuable financial planning tip for when you start a new business when you don’t have a lot of direct expertise. You start with a set of financial forecasts that you have assessed and you think are realistic.

Once you have that forecast – then halve your predicted revenue and double your expected costs and then your financial forecasts is likely to be far more accurate.

Overall assessment

Whether or not you should leave a corporate job to pursue an entrepreneurial career gets down to your personal makeup. There is no doubt in my mind that I was not suited to the “structured approach” of a large corporation. I tend to be very creative, like to solve business problems, like challenges – therefore, I turned out to be far more suited to entrepreneurial life.

However, if you like predictability, repetitive work tasks, and a relatively stress-free life – then I would suggest that a corporate job would be more to your suiting.

But as the old saying goes – in life you tend to regret the things you didn’t do rather than those things that you did.

Article contributed by Geoff Fripp

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