By Sallie S. Hyman
When the frustration of the daily grind or the thoughts that “I could do this and be
my own boss” start to cross your mind, then it is time to sit down and plan how to get from the “here” of a job to the “there” of starting your own business.
Ready for a Change?
Employment with a company has solid perks of stable work, a fairly routine schedule, a steady salary, health insurance, 401(k) plans, and other benefits. Sometimes, however, the routine is boring, the hours are too long, or the possibility of career growth is not there. Sometimes we need to follow our passion.
Take stock as to what is most important to you. Do you want more time with your family? Do you seek greater professional freedom or advancement? Do you want freedom to work when or where you want?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time for you to start your own business. Then you can dedicate your time and energy towards your own priorities.
Have a Plan
Leaving the comfort zone of nine to five and a steady paycheck can be a frightening prospect. Taking that leap need not be so scary when you prepare and plan for the change. And no doubt there is a lot of planning that should go into transitioning from full-time employment to business ownership.
Many experts recommend freelancing or moonlighting with your business if possible before making the transition. This will take careful time management, but can give a wealth of information, such as market demand for your product or service. You can also begin to build up a client base during this time so you are not starting from zero when you leave your full-time job.
Even if you are planning to start out freelancing or working on your own business part time, write out a business plan. Have a business plan with defined goals and how you intend to meet them. Set time frames so you have motivation and don’t get stuck on one aspect of the start-up. Having this plan will also show potential financial sources that you are serious about this venture.
Figuring the Finances
This may be the hardest part about leaving a full time career. And the one that takes the most planning to do right. Unless you are as lucky as NASE Member Tiffany Washington, owner of Washington Accounting Services in Waldorf, Md., who won $8,000 in Las Vegas after having been let go from her job, saving will take some effort. Most experts recommend that you have at least six months worth of living expenses
saved up before you leave your job.
It is probably time to make some changes in your financial habits as well. Bank as much of your paycheck as you can so that you have money for living expenses and cash flow to start your business. Cut personal expenses in half if possible and save the rest. Write out a budget to help you save and stick with it. If you change your habits before you leave your full time job, you will be able to save more and be prepared for tighter times that might lie ahead.
NASE Member Warren Croce of Warren Croce Design in Belmont, Mass., spent 18 years in the corporate world before starting out on his own. He started saving while still working and was able to bank 12 months of living expenses before leaving. He strongly recommends that anyone wanting to go out on his own should meet with a financial planner to help prepare for this transition.
Once finances are set, it is time to transition your mindset from employee to boss and what your new work life routine will entail. This can be a source of much stress for many entrepreneurs who were used to a defined workday. Being able to work any time from anywhere sounds nice, but for many start-ups it means working all the time from everywhere as you begin to grow.
Finding the Balance
You need to set daily goals and boundaries to help keep you on task and try to find that balance that probably set you about starting your own business in the first place. First and foremost, keep a schedule. Define times throughout the day that are set aside for certain tasks. It is also very important to keep organized so that you know when and where meetings are taking place, as well as where information for your business and projects are.
Technology offers a plethora of applications to help. Microsoft Outlook will keep you on schedule. Remember the Milk, a smartphone app, helps you remember what you need to be doing when. Evernote allows you to write down your thoughts, like that next brilliant business idea, wherever you are.
You Are Not Alone
Being your own boss often also means that you now work alone. And that can mean gaps in business knowledge. Sometimes it may be necessary to find a partner who can complement your knowledge.
Elizabeth Sichinga of Africa Global Super Center, LLC in Wyomissing, Pa., an import/export business, knew that she needed help and found it in her partner. Now her business has expanded to include five partners.
NASE Member Al Rickard of Association Vision in Chantilly, Va. recalls his transition working as an association professional to partnering with a colleague to form a new company, “I never considered myself an entrepreneur. That’s why partnering with my colleague (who has the entrepreneurial spirit hard-wired in his DNA) was important for me.”
Gone also are the colleagues with whom you could hash out ideas and the reputation of the company you left. Two aspects of going out on their own that struck NASE Members as some of the most important to address were marketing and networking.
Author and NASE Member Skip Press had developed a lot of skills in the corporate world that he found transferrable to the “outside world,” but then realized, “outside, you have to market yourself.” Web designer Croce found the same thing and was surprised at the amount of marketing that was necessary to get his business going.
Networking is an invaluable tool when starting out on your own. Sichinga found that networks were the key to her success. Get involved with your Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Center, and associations affiliated with your business. An often overlooked idea in our age of technology that Press finds so important is getting together with people in person, especially friends. This network is there to help
and support you. And Press adds, “Always give back, as well.”
An organization such as the NASE is also an important ally when starting out on your own. Washington said joining was the best thing she did when deciding to start her business. The NASE was able to offer her information from experts in all areas of business development, discounts on insurance and other products, and opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals. Sichinga seconds the sentiment. The NASE can also provide administrative help that is common in corporate life, but not readily available when you are on your own. Press says that is something valuable to take advantage of.
Learning From Being The Boss
If you are fortunate enough to start out with employees, the transition to being the boss of other people can be difficult. Being responsible for the livelihood of others can be stressful, but it can also be motivating. Washington found it to be a continual learning process so that she could find ways to keep her employees motivated. She says, “Having employees has been motivating. It makes me work more to do more for them.” There are a lot of good books and other resources for learning how to be a good boss and how to motivate employees. Take time to read and learn so you can be an effective leader.
Congratulations on having the courage and fortitude to make the transition from full time employee to boss. Don’t let others judge you or discourage you, especially if they haven’t had the courage to do this themselves. Starting out may be a slow and scary process and there are sure to be some failures along the way. Don’t let the failures prevent you from reaching your goals. Don’t give up. With proper planning and a lot of hard work, the transition from “here” to “there” will be manageable.
Sallie Hyman writes on small-business issues and owns and operates her own small business in Purcellville, Va.