During a break at a workshop, Dianne pulled me aside and, glancing around to make sure no one was looking, asked me, “Should I quit my job and start my own business?” I whispered back, “What business would you start?” She responded assuredly, “I don’t know yet.” We both laughed out loud and then began a discussion I have nearly every day with clients. Should you quit your job, become an entrepreneur and chase your dream job?
Every business magazine, blog, and lifestyle book encourages you to take the leap sooner, rather than later as your life is slipping away! I wholeheartedly disagree, as I have worked with lots of people who took that advice, and contrary to popular belief, things didn’t turn out as they expected and in the end, they were anything but millionaires. Being an entrepreneur is difficult; we often want to leave the corporate job because we believe that we won’t work as many hours, that our jobs will be more meaningful and we will have the upside of making more money. While this can be true, most new businesses fail within 5 years and if you thought you worked hard in your corporate job, just wait until you open a business! (Is this becoming a downer article???)
There is a better way to dip your toe in the business bucket. I encourage individuals who are dead set on starting a business to begin a side hustle. Start something in the evening time or on the weekends. (Make sure there is no conflict of interest with your current job!) See how it goes, how much demand there is for your product or service, and if the business is a viable one. This allows you to learn, make mistakes, build customers and see if you like being an entrepreneur all before you are completely dependent on the income from your business. You get to experience the best of both worlds. You have a nice steady income and you have the thrill of a new business. See how it goes and make decisions as the business progresses.
If you decide that entrepreneurship is not for you, then you have not only learned what you do and don’t like about owning your own business, but you have also acquired some new competencies and skillsets along the way. Gustavo Manso from the University of California at Berkeley found that self-employment does pay off financially, but not often in the way entrepreneurs might expect. The increased skill sets and competencies will help you in the form of higher wages in your corporate job.
If you want to experience what it is like to own your business don’t take the big leap from corporate America (unless you just won the 1.5 trillion dollar lottery), start small and grow. Reality and research tell us that most entrepreneurs only last in their business stints for two years or less. So dip your toe long before you jump from the bridge.
Remember, it is your career.