Transitioning from corporate to your own business

When you leave your job and cross over to start your own business, it can be a journey of twists and turns.

At times you will feel exhilarated, excited and eagerly anticipating each day as it presents you with new opportunities and experiences.

You will relish the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss. You will love doing the work that matches your values and is meaningful to you.

Sadly, it is not always like this. At other times you may feel as if you are taking two steps forward and three steps back.

The business will test your resolve, your resilience and your self-belief. You may feel lonely, and as if no-one really understands what you are going through.

You may also feel stuck with no-one to turn to, especially if they questioned your decision to leave your corporate job.

Wanting to avoid the “I told you so”, you resist reaching out for help, and risk feeling worse about your situation.

From the interviews I recently conducted for my book, starting out as new Corporate Crossovers®, many of the women I spoke with, had little support.

Often they felt too proud to ask or simply didn’t know where to look.

Others were just too busy to get help, preferring to do it all themselves and push through their issues.  Long hours and sheer hard work were how they grew their enterprises.

Even though they may have done it themselves, in hindsight some of them wished they had found support earlier. They now realize that having that extra support earlier could have made a significant difference to the speed and quality of success they experienced.

Support comes in many forms and it differs for each person as it depends on their own skills, experience, personality and specific business issues being faced.

The most common needs of support were around the practicalities of getting the work done, increased business knowledge and moral support and encouragement.

1. You don’t have to do it all

From the quantitative research I conducted of over 300 women, a big shock for many of them was all that was entailed in setting up a business.

Many of the women did all the work themselves instead of outsourcing it. This caused them to lose sight of their business vision and forget what value it is that they bring to the business.

When business owners spend most of their time doing the more menial and repetitive tasks involved in setting up and maintaining a business, they can forget why they set it up in the first place. If they are not spending time doing what they love and adding value to their business, they easily become demotivated and start to question if it’s all worth it.

To stop yourself entering this downward spiral and to grow the business, you must spend time adding real value and working ‘on’ the business.

Crafting the business and marketing strategy to drive growth and new customers will help you feel more in control of the business success and you will feel excited by the new growth you have planned.

2. Experienced advice is close at hand

Many of the women business owners I know find it difficult to ask for help. They need to get to bursting point before they make a request.

This time is often too late. You must step up and ask for support when you need it.

People will help when asked. They love to help. Think of it as a form of Business Karma. What goes around comes around.

It seems that all of the longer-term business owners I interviewed had asked for help and advice early on and it had been offered willingly.

Now they want to give back and help as well. One day you will be in that position of helping others less experienced than you.

Use this concept to empower you to ask for that help you need.

Approach the more experienced person in your sector – ask them how they got though the problems you may be experiencing now.

Do this in the knowledge that one day you will be helping someone out who is in your shoes now.

Scaling your business, creating systems and a sustainable revenue model that doesn’t depend on you or your presence is essential for growth.

If you want to grow your business and move beyond having an income to being financially free, you will have to ask for help.

Whether that help is additional resources, advice or funding it is important to resist getting to breaking point before you reach out.

There are studies that reveal that women are less likely to ask for help as they have been socialized to place the needs of others first and their own second. We have been wired to ‘do it all’. Often at great cost to our health and the potential of the business.

As women tend to be more relational than men, we may worry about the impact our actions and requests will have on relationships. Consequently, we may ask for things indirectly or ask for less than we actually want. This hesitant, bashful approach can slow down the growth of the business whether you are asking for funding, advice or additional resources.

This wiring must be broken. We need to put our needs and the needs of the business first so that we can manage optimally. If you as the business owner are tired, stressed, fed up and not doing the work that needs to be done, then your business will never reach those lofty heights you dreamed of at the start of your journey.

3. Create your cheerleaders!

When you crossover for a job to starting your own business, there is no one else to blame. Taking responsibility for your business also means taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. This is where our mind can impede us or propel us.

This meshing of our internal and external worlds can be surprising.

After a long successful career in the corporate sector, you may take for granted your success and your ability to do your role well.

You know that on the whole, you have what it takes to do the job and if you question things, it is more likely to be the ability of others and the culture you are working within rather than your own ability and performance.

Suddenly, in charge of your own business, you realize that the buck now stops with you. You are what lies between where you are now and the future success of your business. This can be overwhelming for some, invigorating for others.

Finding the right support for our internal world is essential to make progress externally.

Customer feedback, comments on social media can all be effective sources of support to boost your morale when you need it.

Keep all the great comments in a folder – physical or virtual and use it as a pick me up when you need it. Joining a mastermind group, belonging to a supportive business women’s network and getting a coach are also ways of keeping your morale high.

External recognition of our success is essential as too often we are the last ones to recognize the success we have become and how much work it has taken us to get there.

Leaving your job, starting your own business and then continuing to run it is an incredible achievement.

You have created something from nothing and then you become very attached to it, and it can become an external representation of you.

So treat yourself and your business kindly. Nurture it, and yourself by reaching out for help and celebrating your successes. These actions will help you feel more invigorated and fueled up to take your business forward!

Wendy Kerr

Director for The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Auckland University.The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the hub for the development and promotion of innovation, commercialisation and entrepreneurial activities within the University.We create experiential programmes, workshops and events to unleash the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, to transform the mindsets of our students and staff to support the growth of New Zealand as a prosperous and creative nation.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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