It was only seven months ago, but it seems like years. I was sitting at my desk in my spacious 4×6 cubicle zoning out, glossy eyed, gazing into my work computer. I had before me a task of utmost importance. Menial to most, but life or death to my superiors. For the life of me I could not get myself to engage in the task. What is wrong with you, man, I thought. Are you that lazy? I chided myself over and over, second guessing my dedication to my job. What was the task, you ask? Compliance training. Five courses to be exact. They would consume roughly three hours of my day. I wanted nothing to do with spending my time watching video’s on “corporate regulations”, but I knew I had to. After all, it was ‘compliance’ training, and everyone had to comply. And then it dawned on me. I wasn’t lazy at all; I just don’t comply very well. I never have. Even as a child I learned things by trial and error. Lots of error. I once learned that ditching ten times will cause you to fail a course. I learned that one by ditching eleven times. But that’s a different story. The act of taking compliance courses, because I had to, was an almost insurmountable obstacle.
It was in that moment that I realized compliance was something I no longer wanted to do. I decided I was going to do something drastic. So, I set out to prepare myself for a full scale, carefully calculated, complete immersion into entrepreneurship. I gave myself a full year. When that year was up, I had to be on my own. My fifteen years of corporate life was about to end.
Luckily I wasn’t going into this completely blind. I had studied the art of starting a company (yes, it’s an art, even more so than a science) for some time. I already had an idea in the works for a digital media company. Most importantly, I had two outstanding, talented, like-minded business partners who understood and embraced the same philosophies as I and had the skill set to back it up.
The harder I worked at my own company the closer I came to leaving my 9 to 5. Surprisingly, it didn’t take a full year. Not even six months. Four months after that afternoon of compliance training, I put in my resignation and jumped feet first into the great wide world of entrepreneurship.
What I have found so far is that everything I had ever read about is true. The good, and unfortunately the bad. I submit to you a few of my findings as a newbie entrepreneur.
The bad: The perks of corporate life are real! Those direct deposits that come every two weeks, they stop coming altogether. The great benefits package that includes health coverage at a corporate rate kills anything you’ll get from the Affordable Health Care Act. And if you like your dental plan, be prepared to spend over a hundred a month for something somewhat comparable as an independent. Those three week of paid vacation, yeah, those were nice to have. What about the camaraderie of the folks in the office? Well, you’ll probably miss that too.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this journey is this; upfront, the money goes out, but it doesn’t come in (not very much, anyway). You are literally working for free for the first little while. After all, no one is going to pay you to build your own site, or market your company. Those snazzy T-shirts you need for an event that you hope will yield clients, yeah you have to pay for them. Flyers, business cards, promotional material, they cost. And if done right, they cost quite a bit. Be prepared and be willing to sacrifice for the sake of critical foundation building. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it certainly wasn’t built for free.
The good: I can say without the slightest hesitation, that the work you do on a day to day basis is as rewarding and engaging as anything you’ll ever do. You’ll find great satisfaction in working on something that you have complete control over. This doesn’t mean you can control all facets of success (you still need customers), but it means there is a direct correlation between the effort you put in and the success you yield. Whats more engaging then that?
Something else you’ll learn is that, if you do it right, the line between work and pleasure blurs considerably. Never has a sixty hour work week felt so painless. I find myself having to shut it down at times. This was never, ever the case with my 9 to 5.
Thus far, I can say without hesitation that the positives far outweigh the negatives.
A little about preparedness: There is an old adage floating around that says ‘If you are prepared, ye shall not fail’. Unfortunately, I don’t think this applies to starting a company. You can prepare and prepare until every possible angle or outcome is smothered, but you still may fail. It’s the nature of the beast. But I can honestly say, if you want to succeed you had better prepare. Not just prepare, but prepare with action. Do the research in your industry; learn what successful companies are doing. Meet the right people, and put yourself out there. This is the preparation that could mean the difference between success and failure.
Though my company is still working to lift off of the ground, and we have a long way to go, this the best advice I can give, second only to ‘If you ditch eleven times, you’re sure to fail the course’.