I had a great job at a top Fortune 500 company that I loved. Due to personal circumstances, I left the company that I thought for sure I would retire from. As I looked at my options of finding another corporate job or taking a more entrepreneurial route, I decided to start my own business. I wanted to gain greater flexibility to raise my two young children. I want to share with you the most important things that I learned in the past 3 years going from a corporate job to running my own business.
Focus on Challenges, Not Dreams
Some people chase dreams, but I like to defy challenges. Why is it important to differentiate between a dream and a challenge? Because when you chase a dream you will be let down by the obstacles that will come up. However, when you have a challenge, each obstacle that you surpass will get you one step closer to winning. Being an entrepreneur is full of challenges and you must prepare yourself mentally to keep going.
Pace Yourself Accordingly
One of my favorite books is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He discusses how it takes a person 10,000 hours to become an expert. This is also true in being an entrepreneur and learning how to run your business. Working 10 hours/day for 360 days/year is about 3 years. If you give up before then, you didn’t really give it a good shot, so it is very important to not give up too soon. Being a real type A, I thought maybe I could be special and it wouldn't take me as long as others, but progress was slow. I realized putting on the extra pressure to be successful sooner was draining valuable energy.
Set Goals Beyond Money
Leaving a 6 figure salary is really, really, really hard. However, not being more present in my kids’ lives was even harder. When I left corporate, I decided to not look at a job board for 2 years and this kept me from being lured by other high paying corporate jobs. Instead of getting desperate while you are not making the money you once were, lay out short-term targets to hit that are modest at the beginning, but much larger later on.
[Related: The 5 Realities of Entrepreneurship]
Don’t Go Big, Go Smart
When you come from corporate, it is tempting to want to "go big" by having a nice office, spending on high quality marketing material, and all the other things you had in your corporate life. You have to give that up, at least in the beginning. As I made money, I thought that I had to keep spending, since that’s what you do to make more money. What I didn’t realize is that I did not have a solid business model that brought in steady revenue. It is important to invest to grow, but until you have your cash cow, don’t spend like you did in your corporate role.
Learn How to Network
If I ever wanted to meet someone new in my corporate job, I would simply go to the company’s directory and call them up. It doesn’t quite work the same way in the real world and this was probably one of the most shocking things of the transition. In the real world, this is “cold calling” and most people will not engage this way. Learning how to network changed the way I engaged people I met at networking events. The best thing to do is to ask people what they do and be an active listener. Also, find the right network for you; in my case, the networks were Ellevate and My Man Is Not My Plan. I found the support I needed from other female entrepreneurs whom I could relate to.
[Related: 5 Ways to Make Networking Effective and Fun]
In my previous life, I was the client and called the shots. I worked with the biggest agencies in the world on some of the most important multi-billion dollar brands. Now as the owner of a boutique marketing agency, Marketites, I work to bring high level expertise to mid-size companies. Some days are harder than others, but I constantly have to remind myself that I need to check my corporate ego at the non-existent door of my co-working desk. The good news is that I have doubled my revenue every year and I have no plans on stopping. Being an entrepreneur has given me the flexibility I was looking for and is more rewarding than I imagined. If going from corporate to entrepreneur is something that you want to do, go for it, but just know that things will be different, and that is OK.
Annabel Mendez is the owner of Marketites Marketing Agency based in Miami, FL. She left a 12 year career at Procter and Gamble and helps midsize clients that seek world class marketing services. She is the mother of two children and a runner.