I am lucky, a week doesn’t go by where I don’t get a pitch from someone about a great idea for a business…. If you think I am making fun of them… I am not because they believe it’s the greatest idea ever and they have that new passion that I love. I wouldn’t, however, be doing them any favors if I didn’t give them my true opinion. I have a saying that I like folks to know about ideas; if your idea is so unique and never been done before it is one of two things… (1) Way ahead of its time (2) Completely useless. I will typically pause (dramatically) and ask, “which one are you?” I don’t normally get an answer, but I do get them thinking. At least I hope to get them thinking.
People that are new to the entrepreneur world like to play it safe with an idea that is very popular, like ride share or social media. Those that are in a long time corporate job see entrepreneurs in their communities having success and want to be part of it. I say… come on in the water is great! However, if you want to play it safe know that there are two things that will be very difficult for you.
Thing 1 – Skill Transfer
If you have had a great corporate career and have achieved a lot by climbing the ladder, and typically that’s done within several companies, your experience will translate to being an entrepreneur. Especially is your career has been marked with team building, selling and communicating. The problem comes when those leaving their corporate jobs lean too much on their experience as if having a 30-year career in a Fortune 500 company is all they need to be successful. I tell those people that the experience is great, however, what happens when every plan you make turns out to be a dud or there are a dozen things you haven’t planned for comes up. What then? There is nothing worse than seeing someone sink everything they have saved into a bad idea and slowly watch it turn to nothing. Good entrepreneurs are great at mitigating risk and dealing with uncertainty. If those two things have not been part of your corporate career you are going to have a lot of trouble. Do yourself a favor and be very proud of your corporate experience, but know starting your own thing and taking too big of a risk is not good business. To have too much pride in your corporate experience can close you off to an appropriate pivot that will allow you to move from your original idea to a better idea. Skilled entrepreneurs are great at abandoning a bad idea at the right time. I know from my AvidXchange experience that we had three product failures in two years but those failures led us to the one product that really made an impact. Having corporate experience is great but thinking that it’s going to be your ace is wrong. That experience doesn’t always transfer.
Thing 2 – The Call
Being confident is great but being overconfident in your experience is dangerous. It’s not the biggest reason why people from corporate job struggle. The biggest reason is what I label, “the call”. Imagine that you have taken the leap out of your corporate job and are following your dream. Then you have a stretch of a few weeks or months (sometimes even years) where nothing goes right. All the plans haven’t shown signs of profits, the savings are being chipped away and nothing is working. The call is when you are in the middle of bad times and you are talking with or having lunch with an old colleague and you are open about your troubles and they say, “hey, we have been thinking that we could use <something that you do well> and I know you are living your dream but think about coming back and working part-time or do something on the side”. It’s those distractions that get that little voice in your head saying “run back to safety” and you dream about the times where you didn’t have to worry about payroll or deal with an enrages customer. It’s that pull back to where things were comfortable that takes you out of focus and kills your spirit. People asked me why I stuck with Avid for so long when things were rough. The first year I was in business I got one of my cars repoed… I didn’t take a vacation for 10 years without someone giving my family a place to stay or a handout of some sort. The answer I know now was… I stuck with it because that’s all that I could do. I didn’t have any corporate skill or connection that pulled me in another direction. I guess you could say I was lucky that way. I also knew that if I got a job at the bank I would have lasted a few weeks because I would have chased some wild project that the corporation didn’t care about.
Think About It
I wrote this with as much genuineness as I can… If you have the call to be an entrepreneur… do it! I want everyone to control their own destiny, but if you think that working for a large corporation is going to give you an advantage… think twice because the skills may not be as valuable as you think, but also know that once you commit… commit all the way.
About The Author:
Christopher Elmore has written 8 books, countless articles, lectures at UNC – Charlotte and Queen’s University as well as travels the country speaking on on the topics of startup success, sales, presentation skills, change, entrepreneurship, accounts payable and payment automation. Having deep startup and entrepreneurial experience, Christopher was one of the six people that started AvidXchange in 2000 and continues to work in the business today. If you hire Christopher to speak or teach at your company or event… you won’t be sorry! Request a media kit or contact us for more information.
2 Replies to “Why People In Corporate America Struggle As #Entrepreneurs”
I really liked the way that you indicated an entrepreneur’s ideas may just be duds or may take a long time to be realized. Uncertainty is definitely greater in the entrepreneur’s space than in corporate jobs, but then again, nothing is set to stone. Your final anecdote about why you stayed with AvidXchange for so many years was quite notable.
I think your point about skills not being completely transferable was completely accurate. Your quote of “To have too much pride in your corporate experience can close you off to an appropriate pivot that will allow you to move from your original idea to a better idea. ” Is such a valuable point that people really need to consider before following that feeling. Just because you worked well in a structured world doesn’t mean you will survive in this unstructured one.