Wishing to leave your corporate job? I share with you my own story.
11 Lessons I Learned by Leaving Corporate America to Start and Run My Own Company
Happy Anniversary to my business, Equanimity Executives, created in May 2011! In case you are considering leaving your job for to become an entrepreneur, I’d like to celebrate by sharing almost a dozen lessons I learned along the journey.
You Have What You Need
For a long time, I assumed I would never leave corporate America. I had been mentored to become a highly successful corporate executive—why would I change that? I simply did not believe I had the potential to be my own boss. Today I see I took all the strengths and training I had learned in corporate America and simply applied them to my small business. Much is transferable!
Look around You for Seeds to Plant
My story begins in 2005, when I hit a wall after being let go. Difficult times can be great windows of opportunity to rethink where you are going. Without really knowing what coaching was, I hired an executive coach and worked with her to reflect on who I was and what I wanted to do. My intuition told me that one day I would support others in the way I felt so supported by my coach for those six months. A seed was planted.
In 2005 I earned a bachelor’s degree and moved to the United States. When I arrived, I worked with large corporations like Disney and was again successful, mentored by people who trusted me to keep learning, which I did. It was a wonderful opportunity to expand myself, build resources, and get training in that corporate framework.
In 2010, an ad popped up online about coaching, and I felt it was time to explore that field. In my research, I discovered IPEC, the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Instantly I enrolled (encouraged by my fiancée), and one year later I became a coach.
Coaching is such a fulfilling and rewarding job. I love supporting others and witnessing their transformation, not only at an individual level but at a corporate level too.
Move Around Your Own Roadblocks
I was very blessed, too, in that I trusted my intuition. It told me that whatever I wanted to accomplish, I would be successful if I could remove the roadblocks I put before myself. This advice is good for anyone venturing into the unknown!
In March 2011 one of the clients I was coaching pro bono while in coaching school asked how she could hire me. I was stunned. And I had no idea! It would have been easy to brush her off. Instead, after googling how to take a payment, I opened my business the next day with my first client.
Everything Unfolds in Its Perfect Time
Year one of EE was scary, with my inner gremlins talking to me the whole time, afraid that I would fail. I remember often feeling lost, wondering what to do next. Do I need a lawyer, compliance, accounting? How do I get paid? How do I market myself?
Today I realize that everything unfolded perfectly at the right time. The hardest thing was to think about selling myself and my own services. Working for other companies to sell, promote, and close deals for them was easy compared to having to sell myself. That felt complicated. But I figured it out. Step by step the answers came.
If You Don’t Ask, You May Never Get
It took me about a year to transition out of corporate America. I began by sharing with my supervisor that I wanted to explore a new career and asking to work four days a week. She of course wanted to ensure I was still present and invested in what I was doing, and I was.
Early on, my mentors had taught me to knock on doors and ask for what I wanted, whether for more salary, a promotion, or some training to grow professionally. Today I know there is no downside to asking.
As my business grew and I needed more time for my clients, I asked my employer for a way to best leave my corporate job. After a good discussion, I gave three months’ notice. They accepted and I was able to transition out gracefully, wrapping up my contracts there as I ramped up Equanimity Executives.
Consider the Value of What You Offer
Year two of soloing was the most interesting. I was a full-time coach, completely on my own, no safety paycheck any more. I had to think about money, investing, and how to get new clients. I hired a business coach, Penny Zenker, to help me organize my business. Her training was so excellent, I am still working with some of her materials.
Patty led me to look at what I was providing from a benefits perspective, which led me to successfully raise my rates and change how I approach clients and prospects. That was a great lesson—to look at my business from the perspective of my clients.
As I entered year three, it was so rewarding to see the seed I had planted germinate and begin to branch out! While I stressed daily, I was also feeling empowered and excited to go to work every morning. No longer a newbie, my company had built a reputation and great testimonials from clients. It was working!
Gather a Support Team
Being a solopreneur felt weird because I didn’t have a built-in team any more. Today, I’ve learned to view others as real partners and collaborators, instead of relying on them to make me feel empowered.
As a small corporation, I don’t have many people on direct payroll, but the people I do work with help me sustain the business:
- My assistant, who helps with clients and administrative tasks as well as marketing material, finding new providers, connecting with other people, evaluating my social media and connecting with prospects.
- My podcast producer, helping me produce this content.
- A copywriter who also reviews my writing.
- Other coaches and professionals, with whom I collaborate and connect. I may partner with them to create content: workshops, videos, and more to support and educate our mutual clients.
Transitioning one step at a time, I was able to leave corporate America. Today I am fully embracing my greatness, and fully supporting my clients on their journey, without judgment. What a fantastic journey!
If I had to do it again, what would I do differently? Nothing. All the setbacks and mistakes were only stepping stones to become more confident, more productive, and to trust myself and my intuition even more.
Advice that would have helped me is: to save money for an additional six months, transition out of corporate even more gradually, and hire an assistant right away. Had I done this, I would be where I am now at year 3 or 4. I can pass this advice on to you, but I choose to view my journey as perfect.
Fears Keep You Imprisoned
If you let your fears scare you, you will remain in a prison of your own making. The prison might seem comfortable enough, but it will not provide you the fulfillment you could get by being yourself, supporting yourself, and growing an organization that you believe can benefit other people.
If you feel ready to make a change to entrepreneurship, project yourself into the future. What would you like to see down the road? Who would be your team members? Who would be your most essential resource, tool, or person? Begin today to imagine this, and start asking how it can happen.
Happy anniversary to Equanimity Executives! Leaving corporate America, though scary, has been the best thing that has happened for me, to me, and for my clients. I wish you the best on your journey as well!