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Successfully Transitioning from Corporate to Entrepreneur: Things I've learned along the way

Successfully Transitioning from Corporate to Entrepreneur: Things I've learned along the way

Renee Weisman | SmallBizLink

After 40 years of working for other people, in industry and in education, I decided it was time to go it myself. As an engineer, technical leader and executive, I had mentored and advised men and women throughout my career. I found this extremely rewarding but I wasn’t sure whether I could truly develop my own consulting business. Now almost two years after I began, I have fortune 500 clients, a calendar of speaking engagements, and have authored a book. But the trek was not straightforward, and there were both positive and negative surprises along the way. If you are thinking about starting a small business or are struggling to make the company you own succeed, here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Go after your passion – starting a business is exhausting and intense. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, you will find every obstacle overwhelming.

2. Offer a great product. Whether it is something you are selling or a service you are providing, people recognize and return to quality.

3. No matter how hard you think it will be, it will be harder. You need to be willing to put in the effort. If you want a 9 to 5 job, work for someone else. Most new business owners are still working when they go home, and it is not at all unusual to get an idea at midnight that sends you to your computer.

4. Have a business plan. If you don’t know what that is, you aren’t ready. Get advice from experts. You can go to organizations like SCORE who will provide experienced experts to help you on your way. If you are taking a business loan, many banks provide expertise and training. (and definitely learn about CASH FLOW). You may revise and change your plan frequently but you need to know where you are going and how you are going to do it. It will take some time for your business to become profitable and initially you will be putting most of that profit back into the business. Know this and have enough of a buffer, either from savings, loans or other means to tide you through the first 3-5 years. This is the number one reason that small businesses fail; don’t let it happen to you.

5. Expect to do things you never thought you could. When you begin, you will be doing almost every task plus ones you never imagined. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do whatever is required. If you have employees, they will admire you for it.

6. Learn every day. Even successful businesses need to stay current. Watch what your competition is doing.

7. Outsource what you really can’t do and what will pay back (for example, have a quality website, get an accountant, get marketing advice)

8. Know what is available at low cost or even free to small businesses(check out this blog as an example

9. People will not come to you. You need to get to them which means marketing, marketing, marketing.

10. Join organizations that allow you to network locally and globally if appropriate.

11. Get online and keep your website, your offerings and your contributions fresh. Have a facebook fan page; get on twitter and linked in. Write a blog, and update it regularly. Check similar companies’ websites and look for good ideas. If you have a product that can enhance someone else’s business and vice versa, link to each other’s websites.

12. Give back to the community. One of the best ways to get customers is to help others who then want to help you. This could be the chamber of commerce, business groups, professional associations, charities, or whatever matches your interest and business objectives.

13. Be positive and hire positive people. Your customers will know the difference.

14. Be patient. It takes a lot of time, energy, resource and commitment but even if you do everything right, there will be slow periods and setbacks. These are the times to reevaluate your offerings and strategy and seek new ideas and inputs rather than giving up.

Best of luck in whatever you take on. You don’t know what you can be until you try.