7 Things That Change When You Quit Your Copororate Job to Become an Entrepreneur
One year ago, I quit my cushy corporate job to enter the uncertain rollercoaster world of entrepreneurship. After spending some time working/living in the US, I returned to Australia in mid December 2016 and founded Energy Synapse. These are the seven biggest changes I experienced in my first year of being an entrepreneur.
1. You have much less resources
Before I started my own business, I had spent my entire career working for large multinationals. In one swoop, I had gone from working for a 60,000 person organisation to a one woman show. The difference between a multibillion dollar company and bootstrapping a startup was profound. Every spending and time allocation decision is critical and must be prioritised and sequenced properly. This can make or break you.
2. You have to wear a lot of hats
In addition to your actual job, which in my case is providing energy expertise, you are now also responsible for bringing in new business, marketing, PR, tax reporting, HR and more. Much of this was completely new to me. As an engineer, I get the most satisfaction from solving a complex technical problem. This is what I love to do and where I am at my most confident. Having to jump into a sales role in particular was something that was (and still is) well outside my comfort zone. When you start your own business, it is inevitable that you will have to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and often. That being said, it is also important to recognise that one person cannot know or do everything and to employ the expertise of others as needed.
3. Your income becomes much more uncertain
When you leave the corporate world to start your own business, both the amount and timing of your income become highly uncertain. A steady paycheck allows you to plan your spending and investments, and to have confidence that you are going to meet next month’s mortgage repayment. All of that goes out the door in a startup. Firstly, it takes time to build awareness of your brand and when the money does start rolling in, it will be lumpy and unpredictable.
4. You (need to) get good at taking rejection
Rejection is something all salespeople are accustomed to. I, however, was used to the privileges of being a buyer. A part of my previous jobs was to buy electricity for my employer’s manufacturing facilities. When you are a buyer, everybody wants to talk to you. They eagerly return your calls and emails and cater to your requests. When you are a seller, everything changes. You will be rejected. A lot. Calls and emails go unanswered. Meetings are cancelled or postponed. Deals fall through at the last minute. I have had to learn to take each rejection gracefully and to try to learn as much as I can from the experience. I have also found it very worthwhile to maintain every connection. Circumstances can change for your prospective client. Sometimes several months after your initial talks. If you have maintained a positive relationship, you will be in a good position to resume the conversation.
5. You get hit with unreasonable requests
I have negotiated many contracts in my career, with the largest being nearly $1 billion in value. As a result, I considered myself reasonably well versed in the negotiation process. However, my experience was in negotiating with big companies while being a part of another big company myself. I quickly realised that things can be quite different when you are a little guy negotiating with the big fish. There were times when I was asked to accept incredibly one sided contractual terms. On one occasion, I was even asked if I could provide a substantial amount of advice for free. I firmly said no to both. Some people might disagree with me here and say that a new business should seek to get work any way it can. However, I wanted to build a brand that is respected for its quality of work and professionalism. You do not do yourself any favours by developing a reputation as the person who will work for free or under unreasonable terms. Respect yourself, first and foremost.
6. You lose your sounding board
In a big busy office, there are plenty of people, whether they be colleagues, team mates, or mentors who you can bounce ideas off and talk strategy with. When you go solo, this abundant network disappears from your everyday environment and it becomes very easy for your thinking to become insulated from the outside world. As a result, you need to make a much greater conscious effort to seek feedback on your ideas.
7. You learn more than you could have ever imagined
Despite all the challenges and obstacles, which can seem never ending at times, 2017 has been an incredibly rewarding year for me. I threw myself into the deepest end of any swimming pool I’ve been in, and a year later, I’m still swimming. Every hurdle has been a lesson in both life and business, and I have felt my confidence grow with each experience. I have had the privilege of serving a diverse set of organisations, ranging from non-profits to the biggest ASX 100 brands. I am now armed with more knowledge, resilience, and willingness to put myself out there.
Come at me 2018.
Marija originally published this article on LinkedIn.
Marija Petkovic is the Founder and Managing Director of Energy Synapse. She is a leading expert in energy markets and has worked internationally across Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Marija has a deep passion for the transformation of the electricity grid and guiding organisations towards a sustainable and profitable future.