By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker
Have you ever heard the expression, “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for”? Conventional employment can appear to be safe, but charting your own course away from the company where you work can bring you purpose and joy far beyond that of a traditional job. The best part of leaving a corporation to launch your own business is that you already know how to sail.
You Know the Ropes
Once you have experience in an industry, you have the fundamental knowledge, connections, and skillset that can help you launch your own venture. You understand the forces that most significantly affect your field, and how to navigate them for success. You understand customer needs and how to meet them. In my case, I’d been working in real estate services for years. I understood the business model, how to develop a customer value proposition, and how to sell the services. I had what I call distinctive competence, and I had the confidence to know that I could use the competence to launch a successful business. You can do the same in your own field.
You Have Connections
You have built relationships you can draw on even before you start your own business. If you have invested the time to develop trust relationships, some of your contacts will have the faith to follow you and become your first paying customers. These customers are in the perfect position to know that you and your company are their best choice – they’ve seen you in action.
Before I quit my corporate job for good, I lined up pre-orders from prospects who trusted me. They knew that I had the knowledge and ability to deliver on a superior value proposition. Once I proved myself with my first clients, I used referrals and testimonials to attract additional customers. The same course is available to you, through your own connections.
You Have Resources
After years of drawing a paycheck and husbanding your resources, you are likely to have enough financial cushion to risk going without a salary while you start your business. Financial strength and flexibility can also give you the wherewithal to bootstrap your business. Bootstrapping gives you a tremendous advantage. You can avoid the conditions imposed by equity investors or the crushing weight of startup debt. You’ll be free to make decisions independently of a financially interested party.
Despite the media emphasis on venture capital funding for startups, 99% of businesses in the United States are bootstrapped. I’m a big believer in bootstrapping, which was the way I financed my company. I really liked not being beholden to someone at the other end of the purse strings. Plus, I did not have to worry about putting at risk my friends’ and family’s hard-earned money.
You Have Ideas for Improvement
Finally, as you have worked in the corporate environment, you’ve gained insight into how to improve products, services, or processes. It is an entrepreneur’s nature to seek out better ways to conduct business. You have seen how existing practices come up short. You can take this knowledge and your vision for a better way and use them to launch your venture.
In my case, I’d been in the tech industry and the real estate industry for many years. By drawing on my experience, I saw a way to apply a high-tech business practice to the low-tech field of real estate services. I combined systems integration with outsourcing. My company was able to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and serve businesses better than the systems that had been in place at the time. The needs were the same, but we could meet them in a better way. This insight enabled me to build a business that saved my customers millions of dollars. But it all began with my knowledge of my industry, the customers, and their needs.
I am grateful for all the knowledge, skills, experience I gained while employed by corporate America. But I have never regretted leaving the BigCo to start my NewCo. I encourage you to think of your experience as empowering and liberating. It can guide you to great entrepreneurial success.
What advantages in entrepreneurship have you gained from your corporate experience? Tell us in the comments!
Ed McLaughlin is currently co-writing the book “The Purpose Is Profit: Secrets of a Successful Entrepreneur from Startup to Exit” with Wyn Lydecker and Paul McLaughlin.
Copyright © 2014 by Ed McLaughlin All rights reserved.