10 Really Good Reasons to Quit Your Job and Start Your Own Business
Copyright © 2005 Michael J. Katz
Blue Penguin Development, Inc.
It's been five years since I made the decision to leave my corporate job and start my own company. No question about it, leaving nice coworkers, a stable paycheck and 12 years of tenure with one company was the scariest thing I'd ever done. And yet looking back, it was the defining moment not only of my career, but of my personal development as well. The fact is, I am now so enamored of blazing my own trail that I could never go back - I am hopelessly, incurably, unemployable.
As a result, I receive a steady stream of, "Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" invitations - from old colleagues, new friends, complete strangers - anybody who is considering a change, and who wants to know, "Why should I start my own business?"
This is what I say:
1. You'll dance to your own music. - There's a lot of
noise in the corporate world. Not physical noise, but
opinions, rules, history and a whole lot of, "that's the way
we do it around here," always just an inch or two below
the surface. In such a setting it's hard to find your path,
or as I like to say, "hear your own music."
Once you're on your own, you'll suddenly begin to hear
what's there, and the more you can hear it and have the
courage to follow it, the more enjoyable and yes, profitable
your life will be. The fact is, there is no right way to
live, to act or to grow a business.
2. You'll never have to retire. - Retiring is a strange concept
to the satisfied, self-employed person. It implies that work
is something you want to be done with, something you wish
were over. When you truly find your passion however, the
concept becomes meaningless. Do painters stop painting?
Do musicians stop playing music? Do comedians stop being
funny just because they've reached a certain age? Not if
they are doing what they truly want to be doing. Sure, you
may slow down or change focus as you get older, but the
game is never over, since the game and your life will be one.
3. You'll put your money where your mouth is. - I never
planned to start my own business, and I always secretly believed
that I didn't have the guts to be successful on my own. When I
look back now, I'm not even sure how I managed to convince
myself to leave the perceived safety of living within the protected
walls of a large corporation. When I finally jumped however,
I was surprised by the number of friends, former co-workers
and family who remarked on my "courage." Frankly, I'm not
any braver now than I was before, but I know with certainty
that I don't need a corporation to take care of me
(and neither do you).
4. You'll no longer live in two worlds. - I used to be two
people: "corporate Michael" and "home life Michael."
Corporate Michael was less friendly, less intuitive and a
lot less interesting. I found it easy to switch back and
forth between the two Michaels, and for a long time it
didn't even strike me as odd that I would make decisions
at work based on a completely different set of criteria
regarding what was fair, what was smart or what was worth
doing. That's over - I'm now one person no matter what I
do, and I have a more balanced, more humanistic approach
5. You'll know your own power. - Swept up in the turmoil
of working as part of a corporation, there's a tendency to
blame others, wait for others, think that others are making
things happen. Working alone you'll realize how much control
you actually have (and have always had). That realization
will give you the courage and drive to do more things than
you ever dreamed of when you saw yourself as an insignificant
part of a big machine. You'll have nobody else to blame,
and even more importantly, you will see how much credit
you really do deserve for everything you've created.
6. You'll be free to walk away. - When you first start out on
your own, you will probably be grateful for whatever business
comes your way. The thought of "walking away" from a
client may seem suicidal. It isn't. As your reputation grows,
people will approach you, ready to hand you their money
and have you begin work. That's terrific. However, in some
cases, the fit won't be there - something in your gut will
tell you it's a bad match. You will learn that you can say
"no thank you" and walk away. Nobody assigns projects or
clients or teammates to you anymore. You and only you
decide who you work with and on what terms, and if it
doesn't feel right you need only say so.
7. You'll make new friends. - If you've been with the same
company for a long time, you've probably developed several
close relationships. You may be afraid that you'll be lonely
and isolated out here in the "cold cruel world." Nothing
could be further from the truth. Starting your own business
gains you immediate entrance into a collegial world of fellow
sole proprietors and entrepreneurs, eager to have you along
for the ride. We hold meetings, we have events, we meet for
lunch, we talk on the phone - we share ideas, support each
other and hang out together. Price of admission: a friendly
demeanor and a willingness to help other people find their way.
8. You'll pick the players. - Wherever you sit in a company,
you've got people you interact with every day. Your boss,
your direct reports, the head of the legal department, the
desktop support guy, the receptionist. Hopefully you like
and get along with most of these people, but whether you
do or not, you're stuck with each other. When you run your
own company on the other hand, you pick who's on the team.
You get to choose your attorney, your accountant, your
landlord, your printer, your partners, your clients - everybody
in your daily life is there because you decided to put them
there. You get to choose.
9. You'll have real problems, instead of imaginary ones. -
In a corporate setting, your happiness and success is dependent
upon dozens of intertwined relationships and handed-down
decisions, any one of which can change your world in ways
you may not anticipate or even understand. With so much
out of your control, it's hard not to spend time "What If-ing"
and worrying about the future: "What's my boss really think
of me? What if I don't get put in charge of that new project?
What if they cut my budget next year?" Fear of what might
happen can become worse than the situation itself -
When you're building your own business you're immersed
in reality. Sure, you may have days where you worry about
paying the mortgage, but you'll be in the game, fighting
the good fight, and no longer obsessed with the possibility
of being blindsided by an unforeseen shift in the corporate
10. You'll find your purpose. - You didn't come here to follow
somebody else's vision or sit on the sidelines watching the
clock tick away until retirement. But somehow, somewhere
along the way, you forgot. Now, after so many years of
following the pack, you've come to see work as a place you
go to earn enough money to do the things you really want
to do. It doesn't have to be that way. Working on your own
will give you the freedom and focus to find the exhilarating,
balanced, self-directed career you've always dreamed of.
One of my favorite quotes is from the book, The Artist's Way, and I've had it taped to the top of my computer monitor for the last five years: "Leap, and the net will appear."
Go ahead, I'll be waiting for you.
About the Author:
Michael J. Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin
Development, Inc., (http://www.BluePenguinDevelopment.com)
a Boston area consulting firm that helps clients increase sales
by showing them how to nurture their existing relationships, and
that specializes in the development of electronic newsletters.
He is the author of the book, E-Newsletters That Work.
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