I’m often asked by those I keep in touch with who are still in corporate America, “when did you decide to jump ship and go out on your own”? Interestingly, every time I’m asked that question I find myself giving a different answer. In retrospect there were a variety of reasons why 6 years ago I decided to leave the comforts of getting a paycheck bi-weekly to wondering if I’ll ever get a paycheck out on my own. It’s a scary proposition and I gather those who have inquired how I did it…have that same fear. There is a timing factor or I should say factors depending on one’s circumstances, I just felt after being in corporate life for close to 30 years it was time to utilize all that intellectual capital for my own useful purposes. After many days/nights (and yes conversations with the wife LOL!) I decided to start a one-man management consulting business. I have been fortunate in my corporate America career to be involved with so many initiatives and have held numerous leadership positions, that making the decision to consult was a no brainer. Admit tingly, I didn’t realize the tremendous struggle I would have starting not only a new career…but a new life. The word “consulting” carries some baggage and similar to “sales” obtaining relationships, trust and credibility is a tough chore. When the product you’re promoting is YOU there’s a lot of self-examination let me tell you. Most people who go into the consulting business have ready-made relationships, I had very few so like marketing a widget I had to start marketing me. Six years later I’m still marketing me however I have a GREAT understanding how to start, build, and grow a business…skill sets I never had. I tell that little story because while there is timing involved in venturing out on your own, there is never perfect timing and sometimes it’s a leap of faith.
Faith without Vision = Fail
Yes, there’s some leap of faith that occurs once the decision is made to leave the corporate life, but leap should have a “Vision” of where it lands you. I absolutely had a vision prior to taking the leap and consequently that vision is still with me today. I work with small business owners a great deal and many of them are ex-corporate folks who like me who made a life altering decision to pursuit a dream of entrepreneurship. Like most new entrepreneurs the dream is “Pollyanna” in nature without the evaluation of what the vision entails or how it’s going to be executed. Inspiration, passion, and emotion are usually on peak display when I meet with them for the 1st time…then at some point reality sets in and they come to grips that this is a business. I am hyper sensitive when it comes to “Vision” and quantifying what that looks like on paper with every one of my small business entrepreneur clients, because it really sets the groundwork on whether or not the business is going to be successful or not. In a Harvard Business Review (2007) article by Tony Mayo he explains how a CEO’s vision came to life in launching one of today’s most successful newspapers:
When he launched the USA Today national newspaper 25 ago, Allen Neuharth, the CEO of Gannett Company from 1973-1986, was derided by both Wall Street analysts and the newspaper establishment. Having built a very successful chain of regional newspapers and having been named the newspaper publishing Chief Executive of the Year by the Wall Street Transcript in 1979, why would Neuharth want to take such a bold and seemingly foolish risk? Who would buy “bite-size” news? The answer today is clear — millions would buy it and continues to buy it, but that was certainly not the case in 1982 when the paper was launched. Neuharth saw a future for his family’s newspaper empire that others could not see. He also saw a time-starved consumer base that was thirsty for news in manageable chunks. Capitalizing on his regional network of newspaper organizations, Neuharth created an elaborate logistical process to produce and deliver a national newspaper to supplement, not replace, regional carriers. What was it about Neuharth that enabled him to see the vast possibilities of a national newspaper? He clearly possessed a vision of what could be and more importantly, the ability to make it a reality.
New York Times Best Selling Author Michael Hyatt states that the “Vision” is more important than “Strategy”: “Vision and strategy are both important. But there is a priority to them. Vision always comes first. Always. If you have a clear vision, you will eventually attract the right strategy. If you don’t have a clear vision, no strategy will save you. It cannot be overstated that visually and articulately stating what your company’s vision entails is a vital component and possible prediction to your company’s success”.
I tell my small business clients every day that your “Vision” is your GPS without it…your business will be lost.
Before you decide the timing is right to jump, consider these dos & don’ts:
- No vision in place
- Frustrated with corporate America
- After getting fired (impulse decision)
- No other means of income
- Entrepreneurship is all the rage
- “Family forcing me too”
- “Best friend is a successful entrepreneur…I can be too”.
- Not thoroughly researching the chosen “Business Marketplace”.
- Still use to getting a paycheck bi-weekly (“mental habit”)
- Bored with corporate America
- Want to avoid “corporate politics”
- I HATE my boss
“Go For It”
- Lifelong vision/goal
- Reached “corporate professional ceiling”
- Inspiration that’s turned to “Reality Execution”
- Was a “Side Job” that’s become successful
- Thoroughly researched “Business Marketplace”
- Internal Support (e.g. family, friends, investors etc)
- Have a “Value Proposition” that can be monetized.
- Reached out to advisors, mentors, startup experts etc
- Confidence & Humility
- “Thick Skin”…and a “Thin Memory”.
- “Ready to Mingle” (networking is key)
- Ready to learn new skills that will help you grow your business.
I’m sure you can probably come up with additional reasons why you should take that leap into entrepreneurship or not, the bottom line is you have to decide this important step in your life on your own terms. Outside influences and reactions to negative stimuli are generally not good reasons to step into a world that’s sometimes an abyss. It’s very important that you take the time to do research, ask a lot of questions, exercise physically and mentally, and do what inspires you to do. I’ve found taking these steps have helped me make the most prudent and informed decision to delve into entrepreneurship…I’m recommending you do the same if you’re ready to take that leap.
When the timing is right…JUMP!
AH2 & Beyond Consulting