For many, the phrase “be your own boss” echoes their dreams of independence and breaking out of large-corporate constraints. This mindset coupled with entrepreneurial spirit is what makes many quit the comfort of paycheque life and start their own businesses. The move often isn’t easy, however, and it requires more than just an impulse decision to be a success story.
The preparation has to be done at two levels. The first involves evaluating your own decision and deciding on how to handle your current employment situation correctly. The second is to be prepared to launch your business without extending your time down unnecessarily. The two aspects contribute to making a positive start and help you avoid burning bridges with years-long connections.
Here are some tips on how to handle this transition properly.
Having your own business can be the best thing you do for your career, but it also can be challenging. Think of performing many roles that you may have never cared about before working long hours and managing others as examples of what this move entails. Being realistic, therefore, is a must to ensure no, or few, regrets down the road. To do so, begin by defining your points of strengths that will help you go through the tough times and also consider whether your weaknesses can become a drag. Because many of the challenges may be temporary and mostly in the early years, you may be able to manage well if you find a partner or partners who complement your skill set. In short, to start a business you need to be well aware of what you’re willing to accept, sacrifice and work out, and be open to acknowledge your shortcomings. At the end of the day, it is your reputation and money – or investors’ money – that are on the line.
From the time your mind and heart are set on the idea, you will need to take several steps to make sure you’re moving in the right direction for your career and life. Much of this planning may be in the sort of discussions with friends and professionals who can provide valuable insights regarding the feasibility of your project. During that stage, there is no reason to bring the issue to the attention of your coworkers or supervisors. A half-baked idea may only indicate that you’re no longer invested in your current job. If you end up changing your mind over the whole project, it may not be possible to reverse any impression damage that has been done. In addition, if you’re coming up with some novel idea, the last thing you need is to inspire copycats.
Make sure you’re on sound legal grounds. Many employers may have contractual terms that don’t allow you to start a business similar to theirs within a particular period of time after quitting. With the help of an attorney, you should be clear on the scope of obligations. The earlier you know about whether or not your business is considered competitive to your employers, the better you’ll be able to handle the situation – either by reframing your business plans or finding a way to negotiate an exception with your employer.
Once you have all aspects of a solid business plan in place – like market research, capital, partners, etc. – you’ll need to decide on when and how to quit your current job. If you’ve have taken care of the legal issues, you should be prepared to answer employer questions regarding on whether your prospective business will be competitive and how you will handle matters of confidentiality and client information. These issues may be raised as early as in the first discussion, and that it why you should be prepared with facts and arguments. Regardless, you still may not be able to control your employer’s reaction which can be anything from a sincere “congratulations” to showing you the door. So be prepared for whatever the outcome.
Once your current job is a thing from the past, you likely will have your hands full with all matters of setting up your new business. While you quickly may become swamped in small details that are required for daily operations, it is important to keep your sights on the end goal. Meanwhile, respect any pledges you had with your previous employers regarding clients or connections. Your current status moves you to the larger world of business, and that means you should be concerned about building a reputation of honesty and integrity, and that is why you should begin by making sure your previous employers would vouch for you.
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently an editor based in Seattle.