Making the Move from Corporate Cog to Business Owner
It’s not the same as looking for a job.
At some point in their career most working adults have thought about owning a business of their own. Most never get past that thought, for a couple of good reasons.
First, when the average corporate person — middle manager, 15–20 years in, bored but doesn’t hate it — thinks about owning a business, he or she typically thinks about being a consultant. Not sure what that means but it sounds like fun. I get to tell other people how to run their business. What’s not to love?
The other reason is they have no idea how or where to start. Everyone knows how to look for a job: write a resume, find a job posting, tweak the resume to match keywords (for ATS), wait in vain for a response. The system might be broken, but somehow, we all know how it should work.
Business ownership or entrepreneurship is more mysterious to most. We may have heard about a friend’s father-in-law who just sold his retail business and is sitting on a beach somewhere. Or we see a service brand in the neighborhood with the name of a company and it looks interesting. We Google it and it turns out to be a franchise. Wait — aren’t franchises mostly fast food?
Then there is that quote we read someplace — probably LinkedIn — that says something like, “Make your passion your business and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I don’t know if anyone actually said that, but it’s just plain wrong on several counts. We’ll come back to that.
Let’s back up. Maybe you’re in that corporate role — middle or even senior management, you’ve been there a while, and prospects for advancement are becoming harder to find. Maybe you’re between jobs — you got laid off, or you just couldn’t face another day of the cubicle and commute now that you’ve been ordered back to the office.
Whatever your current career status, you’ve started feeling an entrepreneurial itch. You’d like to figure out if it’s the right fit for you even though you have no idea where to start. What business? How do I get started? You don’t have a brilliant idea and buckets of money.
Let me see if I can help here.
To quote Stephen Covey, start with the end in mind. What are you looking for? What’s missing in your current job? What part of your current job do you want to change? What do you want your days to look like?
An honest self-assessment can help here. Map out your skills and experiences, your responsibilities and duties. Which do you enjoy, and which do you dread? Do you like building teams or working alone? Do you enjoy working with your hands or do you prefer something mentally challenging?
The goal is to build a vision for the future that includes your workday. What does that day look like, from the time you get up until you leave for the day? What do you wear? With whom do you spend your day interacting?
When you approach it from this angle, the work itself is less important. It’s the opposite of asking “what do I want to do?” It’s asking, “whom do I want to be, and what vehicle can get me there?”
Let’s say you have a business you’ve built to where you have a few employees — people you hired yourself. You spend your days working on growth plans, talking to clients, and mentoring your team — all of which provide meaning and purpose. You’ve created a strong culture, you’re making good money, and providing a needed service to the community. You have time for your family, you travel, and you coach your daughter’s basketball team.
Given those outcomes how much does it really matter to you what your business is?
Starting a business — whether from the ground up or investing in a franchise — isn’t like finding a job. You don’t tweak your resume to fit the duties. Instead, you outline your skills and abilities, figure out what your goals are, and then determine what can help you achieve them.
But what about passion, you ask?
Let’s say you love to cook. You enjoy inviting friends for dinner and creating fabulous meals for them. They all tell you to open a restaurant. You find a great location, get it outfitted, hire a staff, and open. Business takes off. Now your passion is your vocation. You’re doing it every day — weekends, evenings, holidays. You must shop, cook, hire, clean — there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.
Also, you don’t cook at home any longer. No more dinner parties with friends. On your one night off each week (Monday) you order a pizza and zone out with a glass of wine while you try to do payroll.
What you’ve done is taken your escape activity and made it a prison you can’t escape from. So much for passion.
Wouldn’t it be better to start something that gave you the time to indulge in your passion when you want to? Create a business that allows you to meet your financial goals but gives you the flexibility to work on your terms?
As for the “you’ll never work a day in your life” portion of that tired trope, what’s wrong with work? Work means productivity. It means creation and solving problems. It provides the meaning and challenge that we all need to stay engaged.
If you say that your job doesn’t do that, maybe it’s time to quit the job and start a business.
Originally published at https://jweidauer.esourcecoach.com on March 12, 2022.