Surviving The Transition from Employee To Entrepreneur

by Kel Davis

The pull of entrepreneurship is very strong these days. “Be your own boss”, “achieve work-life balance”, and “take control of your time” are popular ideals related to pursuing your own business. While all these are possible, these are not immediate perks of pursuing entrepreneurship but more like an end-goal. In fact, the journey tells a very different story. I know because I have made the “switch” myself many years ago. To put it bluntly, the road to business success is not for the weak of heart.

No, your million-dollar idea isn’t enough. While that would make it easier, it will never spare you from the pains of owning your business. What do you need to expect? How can you survive it? Here are some of my pointers inspired from my own transition experience.

Nothing is perfect

Aiming for perfection in an established organization is justifiable. Besides, corporate culture often teaches us to aim for the best. Plus the resources and talent are there at our disposal.

But if you are just starting out on your own with nothing but your dreams, “perfection” is impractical. You just have to do it. Comply with the needs of your client, do your best and do it fast. If back in your employee days you have others to depend on, your reality as a solo entrepreneur is way different. The more you wait for the perfect conditions, the slower your business runs. And that is unacceptable. Just get it done and improve it along the way.

“No” is good

If you are used to saying “yes” to your boss as an employee, you need to start learning how to say “no” as a businessman. Being a start-up, priorities become a necessary boundary of what you can and can’t do.

It is not just about saying “yes” for compliance. In operating a business, “yes” is reserved for committing to clients and suppliers. Saying you can’t do it from the very start helps you narrow your objectives. This provides focus and that would mean quality service to your customers.

You are a one-man army

When you start your own venture you will be on your own for a few months. That means you need to get used to doing anything and everything that comes your way. If the PC is down, you will be the one to fix it and not John from IT. If you have problems with one of your accounts, you need to go thru the records and find the problem yourself.

Being an entrepreneur is accepting the new reality that you run a one-man show. Consider this phase as the best time to learn the intricacies of your business. This will become a treasure chest of wisdom as your company expands.

Building a business takes time – lots

Building the framework of a business takes a lot of time. You need to understand that while work-life balance was a key motivating factor why you wanted to get into business, that reality is far into the future. For now, you need to get used to long hours, late nights, and busy weekends.

To make the business succeed you need to invest time to make sure everything is working. Rushing things will just mean problems later on. Do not be afraid to pour a lot of time into your start-up. See the bigger picture. If you set your business right, it can even run without you.

Schedule for sanity

Freedom of time is a nice ideal for many in businesses. If you are just starting your business, scheduling everything will keep you sane. List down what you need to do, be organized in setting up meetings with clients, make sure every entry in your calendar makes sense according to your initial business targets. This will help you have a semblance of order in your day. You do not have to rush things, or force appointments only to be late or miss it completely. Keeping a schedule will help you pace things and get a rhythm going.

Build up a fund

Before you even resign to pursue your business make sure you have saved a sizable fund to provide for your needs while you are still building it up. Many solo entrepreneurs make the mistake of covering only their capitalization. But what if the first few months the business is a bit slow? What if your marketing strategies are not working as planned? You need to have a fall-back fund to sustain you while the business is building up momentum.

Going into business is exciting. It is also a good start towards freedom lifestyle. But it is not easy. The secret is making sure you have a solid “why”. Why are you in business? What do you want to accomplish with your company? A compelling “why” makes a strong, profitable business.