Imagine working for a large multi-national corporation with highly recognizable products and services used around the world. Now place yourself in your ideal role, working with a high performing and enjoyable team making more money than you’ve made at any time in your career. Add to this mix a supportive boss, high degree of flexibility in your work product and opportunities to make significant impacts in the operations of the organization.
After building this ideal scenario, what would it take for you to walk away from this environment? Would you counsel someone to leave such a fortunate situation to pursue their passion?
Outside of a life-changing event, I can’t think of too many reasons to leave an ideal position in search of something else.
And I recently found myself in the aforementioned position.
Throughout my career, I’ve focused on making five-year plans to manage short- and medium-term goals. This has helped me avoid jumping ship too early when things are less than ideal and helps me evaluate the long-term viability of new opportunities.
As I neared my fifth year with my employer, my wife and I developed a plan for the next five years with the company and what goals we planned to accomplish. Soon after making our plans, I had lunch with a former coworker in which he shared his recent career transition with me. I mentioned in passing that I always saw myself making a similar career change much later in life. Little did I know that sharing my thoughts during this meeting would set in motion a chain of events that radically changed my career plan.
I had always toyed with the idea of being a financial advisor but could never see leaving a predictable salary for a commission-based income which relied solely on my production. After much prayer and consideration, my wife and I agreed that leaving corporate America and launching into a new business was the right move for us.
We took the following steps to prepare for the transition:
Research and feedback. I met with multiple representatives from the new company to better understand the opportunity, potential pitfalls. and to identify key success factors. I also spent time with individuals who were no longer part of the industry and learned from their triumphs and challenges. At the recommendation of my then prospective employer, I held interviews with family, friends and coworkers to gauge their confidence in my ability to take on the new position. The frank and honest feedback was helpful in determining the practicality of my new business.
Budget and projections. Since the new position is solely based on commissions, we developed a budget and projected expenses for the first year of operating the new business. We then spent the next several months building our savings to help navigate launching the business without serious disruptions to our quality of life. I also studied for and passed each of the exams required for my certifications prior to leaving my previous employer. These steps were critical and allowed me to immediately focus on serving customers and producing revenue with a lower level of anxiety.
Good exit strategy. I’ve always felt it important to leave any business relationship on good terms. I also had a sense of loyalty to my employer to make sure I left them in the best position possible moving forward. Once I cleared all my certification exams, I gave my boss one month notice of my plan to leave the company. This provided ample time to train my replacement and transition responsibilities. During my conversations with human resources, I made it clear that my decision to leave was not a reflection on any failings with my coworkers. To the contrary, the positive and engaging atmosphere provided by my colleagues made the decision to leave quite difficult. Leaving my employer amenably and maintaining positive relationships with my former colleagues has turned into positive business opportunities.
Building client base. Another major focus prior to launching out was building a base of prospective clients. During the interview process, my new employer required me to think through my network and develop an extensive list of contacts to work with. This helped me build a realistic pipeline and avoid a lack of activity early in my new venture. I held several casual meetings with members of my network and was surprised at the opportunities available within my sphere. In addition to building a contact list, I also built a business plan which allowed me to forecast revenue and adjust for various scenarios. Each quarter, I’m able to measure my actual results to my initial business plan and adjust items where needed.
Get going. After all the consultations and analysis, you eventually have to move forward and make the best decision you can with the information available. Since pursuing this dream job, we’ve truly enjoyed the process. The adage that you work harder when you work for yourself is true. Any fear that develops from being responsible for revenue production is offset by the rewards when revenue is produced. I have a much greater appreciation for entrepreneurs and for those mature enough to recognize that working independently is not for them. Thus far, I wouldn’t change anything in my process.
Prepare for the unexpected. We were surprised to find out that we’re expecting our third child. This new scenario was not included in any of my initial business plan iterations. Thankfully, our plans were built with enough flexibility to allow us to continue down our path without significant changes. I’m truly blessed with an amazingly supportive wife, family, friends and colleagues that continually encourage me and help propel my business forward.