How to Transition from a Corporate Job to Being an Entrepreneur
“Being employed is spending the best years of your working life helping someone else build their vision.”
This statement is a perfect summary of the reason behind the growing popularity of entrepreneurship.
People have realized that while working in a corporate job provides job security, it is impossible to attain full financial freedom through employment.
Most people in employment have realized that they are putting their goals and dreams on the backburner and building the dreams of their employers, which explains why a lot of people today hate their jobs, as evidenced by the dread most corporate employees have for Mondays.
Today, however, people are realizing that the safety of employment does not make up for the lost dreams and the average financial success, which is why more and more people are ditching their corporate jobs and jumping into the murky waters of entrepreneurship.
Transitioning from a corporate job into entrepreneurship, however, is not as simple as just quitting and starting a business.
Statistics show that most new businesses fail: 30% in the first two years, 50% in the first five years, and 10% in the first ten years.
That means only 10% of businesses last beyond the first ten years.
If you don’t want to find yourself begrudgingly trudging back to corporate employment after your entrepreneurial efforts hit the wall, you need to adopt a different approach from the majority of people leaving corporate jobs for entrepreneurship.
Below, we share some tips on how to transition from a corporate job to being an entrepreneur.
WIN THE INNER GAME: MASTER YOUR MINDSET
You will need to draw on inner resources such as courage, strength, intelligence, tenacity, will, resilience, and grit to build something or attain a specific goal.
Like athletes and artists, you will encounter a lot of fear, self-doubt, and restlessness bubbling within yourself, distracting you from your dream.
The key to attaining success as an entrepreneur is to learn how to overcome these obstacles.
As Lao Tzu told us 2500 years ago, knowing others is intelligence, but only self-knowledge is true wisdom, and mastering others demonstrates strength, but only mastering yourself is true power.
For most people, life as an employee is governed by fear. Fear of losing their jobs, fear of losing their boss’s respect, fear of making mistakes at work, and so on.
Many are also afraid of quitting their jobs to go after their dreams, because they are afraid of wandering out of their comfort zones.
While you may not make as much money as you’d like as an employee, at least your job offers safety and benefits.
Being an entrepreneur is the complete opposite. To be an entrepreneur is to operate without a safety net.
Of course you are going to be terrified by the prospect of pushing your little boat into the turbulent waters. On the other hand, if you persevere, plan well, and have a little bit of luck, you may find treasure.
The way to take control over your fears is to take action. Fears are ghosts. They don’t exist. Nothing might have happened yet, but you will still find yourself already feeling afraid.
As an entrepreneur, you have to learn how to stop paying attention to what could go wrong and instead concentrate on what you can do and start doing it.
Right now, you might not be in a position to quit your job just yet, but you can start setting things in motion.
For instance, you can working on things such as your business name, doing market research, printing out some business cards, looking for investors, and so on. The key is to start taking action.
The other thing you should do is learn to control yours self-talk.
If there is a voice in your head reminding you about what could go wrong, willfully respond by reminding yourself about everything that could go right.
If you are worried about something, think through it and come up with a solution. If it’s a real threat, once you find the solution, the fear should go away. If it still doesn’t go away, it’s only in your head. Acknowledge that and keep forging ahead.
Once you gain momentum and the ball is really rolling, the entrepreneurial thrill of just doing things will take over and fuel your will to succeed.
However, before that happens, you have to get the ball rolling, and that means digging into your inner strength reserves and pushing hard.
YOUR NETWORK IS YOUR NET WORTH
Business is about who you know. It’s about relationships.
Sure, it is necessary in the corporate world to forge relationships and grow your network, but not on the same scale as the entrepreneurial world.
While at your job you are rewarded for doing what you are told (the definition of “job”), in business there are no clear-cut rules. You make what you have earned and not a cent more.
To earn well, you must have the right people in your corner.
You will need to find partners you can trust, who are good at what they do, who can do what you need them to do. Most of all, you need partners who are a good fit for you.
You also need employees who are competent and reliable. You will also need investors, clients, suppliers, mentors, and so on. In most cases, networking has proven to be one of the best ways of meeting these people.
While you are still working at your company, you can start forging the relationships you will need when you go into business. You don’t want to quit and wake up the next day without the faintest idea where you are going to start.
Attend conferences and go to seminars, particularly events related to the industry you want to get into. There you will meet like-minded people and potential customers.
You will also gather ideas and market information which will be useful once you launch your business.
It is a well-known fact that instances of serendipity and luck increase when you put yourself in social situations.
Such events provide a series of chance encounters, some of which may be the big break you need – for instance, you might just happen to talk to someone who likes your personality or idea so much that they decide to take a chance on you and invest in your business, team up with you, do business with you, or offer to work for you.
Even if you might not be ready to start your business just yet, you can at least invest your time in researching the industry you want to get into. Market research is critical and how you conduct this step can make or break your business.
To succeed, especially as a new business with everything against it, you will have to understand your target market exceptionally well, identify problems your potential customers have that you can solve, figure out the best way to solve these problems, and identify your competitors.
Some questions to investigate when conducting your market research include: how large is the market? What are the standard prices in the market?
Where does your competition source their products or raw materials? Who exactly are your customers? Who are your biggest competitors?
As a new business what can you do to make customers buy from you rather than your competitors? What are the greatest threats to the market? What are the opportunities in the market?
When done well, market research will help you craft the most suitable business strategy which will establish and grow your brand into a major contender in the market.
You see, sometimes what seem like good ideas are actually bad ideas.
This is because the market is dynamic and things are constantly changing. Even existing businesses have to keep on top of things if they want to survive.
Performing some market research helps you determine whether your market research will be viable, before you invest your money in the business.
To give you a clear idea of what I’m are talking about, imagine someone who started a camera-selling business around the time smartphones were invented.
This hypothetical person probably pumped all their savings into the business.
However, if they had done some market research, they would have identified smartphones as a threat to the camera business.
Our hypothetical entrepreneur might have instead gone into the smartphone-selling business and capitalized on the early hunger consumers had to adopt this new, convenient technology.
Since smartphones were high-priced back then and were a new product in the market, this hypothetical entrepreneur would have succeeded enormously.
Market research is basically performing the “OT” part of SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths and Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The first two refer to the business’s internals.
Opportunities and threats refer to the external environment.
Since you haven’t yet started your business, it’s not yet possible to analyze its strengths and weaknesses, but you can certainly analyze the opportunities and threats present in the market.
On the other hand, it is an opportunity to sell other types of smartphones to Huawei users who want to replace their Huawei devices.
MAKE A BUSINESS PLAN
A business plan is the blueprint for your business. It defines the business. Every investor you ever meet will want you to send them a copy of your business plan before you get into any serious discussions.
It demonstrates seriousness and a willingness to go the extra mile. Develop a professional business plan with this objective in mind.
However, don’t get too caught up in impressing investors.
The most important thing about a business plan is that it should enable you to clarify your thinking.
Without clarity, you are going to waste a lot of time and resources doing the wrong things.
Thinking through what you want to do and how to do it will help you hit the ground running with enthusiasm when the time comes. Clarity disperses fear.
Think of making a business plan as a preparatory process of meditation or self-knowledge that an entrepreneur has to go through before embarking on their adventure.
Market research is useful in crafting a flawless business plan. The first question you must ask yourself, though, is: what problem is my business solving?
Remember, an entrepreneur is a problem-solver. If you are not giving a solution to an actual problem or satisfying any particular need, you don’t have a business.
Investors gravitate to startups which solve a specific need in the market, either as the first mover or a business giving a unique solution to an old problem.
If your business idea doesn’t solve any problem or satisfy any need, you won’t attract customers; and even if you do, they won’t last.
Furthermore, if your idea doesn’t provide a unique solution (or an old solution with a unique twist), you won’t have anything to differentiate yourself from competitors. In both cases, investors won’t see much potential in your idea and will pass.
Note that you don’t have to come up with a business plan right away if you aren’t quite yet sure what you want to do.
You can start your business as a side-hustle while still employed and experiment with different products, services, solutions, and approaches before you figure out what exactly your company will be about.
This experimenting can also be a good way of making money while you figure out your business. You can consider the making of the business plan a fluid process that evolves with time and experience.
THINK ABOUT FINANCES
Finance is the lifeblood of all businesses. Without money, you can’t start or sustain a business. This is a very important thing you must consider before you even think of quitting your job to be an entrepreneur.
Do you have money saved up for your business? Not just for your business: do you have money saved up for living expenses as you try to make your business work?
New businesses take a while to make a profit, let alone recoup your investment.
If you are no longer employed, that means you don’t have a steady source of income to keep you going as you try to find your footing in the entrepreneurial world.
Many would-be entrepreneurs have found themselves returning to the corporate world for this exact reason. To avoid ending up the same way, you must plan ahead.
Make realistic estimates of how long it will take to develop the business into sustainability, your living expenses if you cut back, and how much money you will need.
You can save money from your income, raise it from family and friends, start a Kickstarter campaign, approach investors, or find a quick, easy way to generate income for your innovative idea.
A good example of finding an innovative way of generating some money to fund your business and keep you afloat can be gotten from what Airbnb did.
Before putting its focus completely on the home rental business, the company sold cereal for a while!
The founders already had the Airbnb idea, but they needed financing, so they sold cereal which they called “Obama O’s”. It was this show of “hustle” that attracted VC and founder of Y Combinator Paul Graham to invest $20,000 in Airbnb.
SCOUT FOR SUITABLE LOCATIONS
If you are setting up a brick and mortar business such as a shop or workshop, you must find the best possible location you can get and that you can afford.
Don’t put this off to the last minute. Don’t put this off to until you have already quit, since finding and acquiring a good location can be a hassle.
Doing market research will help you figure out the best location. If you know who your customers are, you can figure out where they are likely to be and when or where they are most likely to need your product.
For instance, if you set up a popcorn and snacks shop near a movie theatre and sell a unique product at an affordable price, movie goers will flock you to your shop in droves.
The two key things to look for in a location is visibility and accessibility. You want your customers to find your shop with minimal effort on their part. Note that location does not just pertain to the physical location.
Online location is also a thing nowadays. Online visibility and accessibility are also absolutely critical for your business, and therefore you should also start thinking about how to create an effective online presence for your business once you are ready to start.
Once again, market research will come in handy when it comes to creating an online presence for your business. If you know who your customers are, you know what platforms they prefer.
Older people are more likely to be found on Facebook than other platforms. Well-educated, corporate people congregate on Twitter. Cool people hang out at Instagram.
If you are targeting teenagers, Snapchat might be a better bet. In addition, you might also need a professional website for your business. All these are things you should think about before quitting your job.
LEARN NEW SKILLS
As I mentioned earlier, what you have learned in the corporate world might not translate into success in business.
For instance, your corporate might not involve any selling, but as entrepreneur, you must know how to make a sale.
As an entrepreneur, you might need to talk to customers, write copy for your business’s social media account, talk to an investor, bargain with a supplier, and so on.
In all these cases you are negotiating with someone, trying to get them to do what you want them to do.
In other words, you are selling. The better you are at selling, the higher your chances of success as an entrepreneur.
If you don’t know how to sell, it is important to start learning before you embark on your entrepreneurial journey. Find books and courses that teach you how to sell products, services, or ideas.
This is something you can do in your free time when you are still employed. The same applies to several other skills that you might not have learnt during your career in a corporate job.
In many cases when a business is young, all the tasks involved in running the business fall upon the founder or owner of a business as there is no one else to do those things.
Once you start your business, you might need to handle various things such as marketing, accounting, procurement, and so on.
It is a lot better to start learning these skills while you are still in your corporate job, rather than wait until you actually need them in your new business. Fortunately, you can easily learn most of these skills online.
START AS A SIDE HUSTLE
Once they feel like they are ready to start their own business, what most people do is to quit their jobs so that they can put all their focus into their new business.
However, this might not be the best approach.
Remember, I said that most businesses fail within the first few years.
What’s more, most businesses take some time before they start making a profit, yet you need money to keep your business and yourself afloat during this period. If you have already quit your job, you won’t have any other source of income.
To avoid such problems, it is best to start your business as a side hustle if possible. This way, you can work on the business while still ensuring that you have an income to keep you going.
And even in case your business venture fails, you still have your job. After starting your business as a side hustle, you can finally quit your job once the business starts making enough money to sustain you and itself.
SET A GIVE-NOTICE DEADLINE
Saying you want to quit your job is one thing. Actually doing it is another. Many people say they will do it, but don’t, or wait too long.
To ensure you don’t procrastinate, set a give-notice deadline. Mark it on your calendar or write it down in your diary.
Setting a specific date makes everything real. You are no longer merely dreaming. You have set a tangible goal and it becomes easier to follow through.
Ensure your give-notice deadline is realistic – otherwise, you will postpone it repeatedly and lose your enthusiasm/momentum. When the date arrives, present your employer with your resignation letter.
Try as much as possible to leave on good terms with everyone, particularly your boss.
Don’t burn any bridges – as we said, business is about relationships and your paths are bound to cross again in future. Leave with grace and professionalism. They will provide good karma for your entrepreneurial endeavors.
Being an entrepreneur allows you to follow your passions, go after your dreams and achieve financial freedom, which is why so many people dream about quitting their jobs and becoming entrepreneurs.
At the same time, the life of an entrepreneur is not an easy one.
A lot of those who quit their jobs to chase their entrepreneurial dreams eventually head back into corporate employment after their entrepreneurial ventures hit a brick wall.
If you don’t want to become one of those who head back to employment after giving entrepreneurship a try, use the tips shared above to make it easier for you to transition from a corporate job to entrepreneurship.
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