You took what seemed to be a good job with a large employer. The paycheck and benefits are steady, the training is good, there are clearly defined paths for advancement, and you’ve made friends and allies on the job.
Perhaps you are happy with the direction your career is taking and only want to move onward and upward, either where you are or with another corporation. If that is what you want out of life, read no further.
If you are still reading, you may question whether or not you are suited for life in a large organization.
Yes, there may be family and social pressure to work for someone else, make a steady living, succeed as measured through pay and promotion, and enjoy a comfortable retirement someday. Just spend your adulthood working hard and following the rules, and it can be yours.
Not everyone can or should live this way, or even has what it takes to succeed that way.
5 Signs You’re an Entrepreneur Stuck in Corporate America
If you can identify with the following list, you may be an entrepreneur stuck in a corporate job.
- You have talents and abilities that find little freedom of expression in your current company.
- You are good at what you do, but always seem to find yourself afoul of minor rules.
- You feel as though you are in the doghouse at work, regardless of your job performance.
- You can innovate within a given organizational structure, but feel you could innovate even better outside of that structure.
- You crave independence.
If you feel that the time is approaching to try things your way, on your own terms, you may be right. If you are disciplined, have courage, and want to be measured against nobody’s yardstick but your own, you may be at least temperamentally suited for self-employment.
How to Transition from Employee to Entrepreneur
1. Take the leap.
Make the larger decision to start a business and then devote the energy and resources to it; even if it’s just part-time in the short-term.
2. Decide what you want to do.
From time to time, you may have thought to yourself, “…someday, I should start a business doing _______”. Whatever that _______ is, you should give it serious consideration, because it came from within, and that is a source of knowledge you can trust. Don’t let the road to “someday” turn into never.
3. Find out how your business interest fills a need.
Find a need and fill it. This starts with a product-market fit. “A startup hits product-market fit (PMF) when they’ve developed a product for a group of passionate users in a big enough market. As Marc Andressen puts it in this article: ‘product-market fit is the only thing that matters.'”
4. Name your business.
According to SBA.gov, “Pick a name that reflects your brand identity, but you also need to ensure it is properly registered and protected for the long term. You should also give a thought to whether it’s web-ready. Is the domain name even available?”
5. Set up an appropriate legal structure for your business.
What type of legal entity will you set up for your new business? Consult a legal professional and research the option that best meets your need. From a DBA, to a Corporation (or C-Corporation, S-Corporation or Limited Liability Company (LLC), every entity is built to meet specific needs.
6. Establish business bank accounts.
It is important to develop the habit of keeping personal and business expenses separate. As New Orleans attorney Andrew Legrand explains, “Commingling is one of the most common mistakes that a small business owner makes which can lead to veil peircing. Commingling is a legal term to describe the mixing of personal and business income and expenses. The only way to avoid commingling is to avoid it all together.”
7. Make sure to meet regulatory and insurance requirements for your business.
Ensure you are up to speed on laws and regulations that impact your industry and your business. From environmental regulations to workplace safety and employment law, gaining a basic understanding of how these areas impact your business is essential.
8. Establish your ‘inner circle’ or brain trust.
This may include business mentors, partners, influencers and professionals such as attorneys or accountants.
9. Develop a brand.
“Just like marketing, traditional branding trumps everything else. The reason is simple. Traditional branding is a foundation builder that establishes a trustworthy identity to relate with consumers and set yourself apart from other businesses.”
10. Find your niche customer base.
Start marketing and developing a public relations plan.
These ten steps should be phased in as circumstances warrant. You have to account for non-compete agreements if applicable (hence, the attorney), and some level of discretion will be required depending on your employer.
Whether or not you are employed, make no mistake — there is a lot of ramping up to do before you can take on your business full-time. Plan accordingly. If it works, you will have the freedom, success, and job security you have always wanted.
James Chittenden owns and operates Triumph Business Services, which offers incorporation and consulting services to entrepreneurs, and Triumph Business Communications, a public relations firm. He spent many years as a business banker and financial advisor. While serving as a Marine Corps public affairs officer, he published the base newspaper at Parris Island, SC.
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