Leaping from working in the corporate world to being a small business owner can be frightening and exhilarating at the same time. I remember going through these emotions several years ago when my husband and I decided to chuck the drudgery of working in cubicles and sitting on conference calls all day long just to get our annual 2% raises. We wanted to take control of our destiny. We longed to be able to decide where we will reside when we retire. I remember telling others that if I had to do the 50-minute commute down GA 400 state highway in Atlanta another 20 years I would poke my eyes out. The thought of fighting Atlanta traffic day in and day out was more than I could bear. The thought of creating yet another PowerPoint presentation just felt like doom and gloom. I longed for the challenge of entrepreneurship!!
The decision to open a franchise in a small beach town was exhilarating - life-changing to say the least. I jumped out of bed, ready to take on the world, every single day of planning and getting closer to the dream. Often it was hard to sleep we were so excited. Opening our small business was like birthing a baby. We loved this new child! We nurtured, obsessed, and doted just like new parents. It was an experience I will always cherish. It was a fantastic and exhilarating experience. Was there ever fear?
You betcha! There were new fears that we had not yet experienced. Fear of customers not showing up or not liking our products. Fear of not containing costs as we should. Fear of disappointing our customers. Fear of our staff not showing up each day. And the fear of not making enough money! All those fears popped up one time or another, sometimes multiple times a day.
As we transitioned into our new roles as small business owners, a different fear reared its ugly head that I did not predict or ever knew I would have. See, I had worked for years in the corporate world. I was used to the daily grind of a Fortune 100 company. I had a professional identity that was firmly ingrained in my self-worth. Suddenly as we took the giant leap into entrepreneurship, I had a fear of losing that corporate identity. It’s something that I worked endlessly over the years. I was terrified to let it go and become someone with a whole different persona, a different set of skills, a different community of co-workers and friends. I didn’t realize it until one day I got an email from LinkedIn with a notification about a former co-worker. I hadn’t been on LinkedIn in months. Logging back into my profile brought up all types of updates from all my old co-workers. They were still plugging away at their corporate accomplishments. I wondered if they could understand the small but important victories that my husband and I were experiencing. We were no longer plugged in on the daily grind of stock market news, corporate politics, promotions, new product launches, and industry awards. It felt like our old corporate friends were in a different universe.
After we made our small business leap, it occurred to me that all those corporate accomplishments and finely tuned business skills that I carefully nurtured in the corporate world were serving me well as an entrepreneur. Sure, I no longer had to create a PowerPoint deck. But understanding the fundamentals of what made a business successful was already ingrained in me from previously having P/L responsibilities. These skills were transferable!! My enterprise experience was a fantastic training ground. It was a surprising confidence booster!
If a challenge came our way, we knew we could figure it out! And that we did!
Fortunately, there are so many ways to stay in touch. Facebook has been a wonderful way to remain connected to so many of our former co-workers. Those with whom we had solid relationships celebrated our new lives and our new vocation along with us and of course, we still keep in touch today. The big takeaway lesson for me is realizing how well my corporate training prepared me for small business ownership and yet it was only a step in the ongoing journey of my career and my story. In all fairness, we have never looked back. Taking that leap into entrepreneurship was one of the best moves we could have ever made!
Jodi Henson is a business consultant and an entrepreneur. She works with prospective and existing small business owners to help them overcome challenges and attain their goals. Jodi lives in NE Florida with her husband. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org