From the Corporate World to the Entrepreneurial World

From the Corporate World to the Entrepreneurial World
By Jeffrey Hayzlett
Since I was a kid, I’ve had an entrepreneurial streak. From the time I was young and throughout college I’ve started and owned many companies. I’ve also worked in Fortune 500 companies. While the rewards and challenges of operating a business are often similar, the demands of the start-up can be more daunting and isn’t for everyone. Many times it’s not pretty – and it’s hard work.
Running a business is an engaging challenge, which usually provides a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction, and it is also demanding, difficult, and often stressful. It doesn’t matter if you are running a large company or you are running a family business – they all apply.
There is a want and need for c-level executives to manage startups in an entrepreneurial setting. Are you in the corporate world interested in taking your skill sets to a startup? Here are your challenges:
Risks/Rewards
The move from the corporate world to the entrepreneurial world may provide you with great satisfaction and significant financial reward. It is also filled with risks, which you may not have faced as an executive! The upside of success will be clearly in your hands, and the downside of failure will be in your lap. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Are you ready to share success with a relatively small team of people who all helped the company achieve success? Or are you unwilling to share in the glory? If you are team oriented, the entrepreneurial life may be right for you. If not, you might want to rethink going in that direction.
  • How have you handled failure in the past? Was it debilitating for you? Did you failure inspire you to greater heights?
  • Are you ready to look into the mirror and realize the key person accountable for success or failure is staring back at you?
At the moment, I am less interested in your views on your financial reward. If you are making the changes for the right reasons for you and for the startup, the financial reward will likely be significant. If you simply desire to make a change because you think the reward will be significant, I suggest you are doing it for all of the wrong reasons and ask that you go rethink your plans.
 Are you ready to replace the founder?
The early passion of a founder is crucial for a startup’s early success. Yet as the company grows, the founder faces challenges for which he or she may not be prepared:
  • Can the founder find the capital required for growth?
  • Can the founder attract the talent necessary for the company?
Often times, the answers to those questions are “no” as more than 50 percent of founders are replaced as CEO by the time the startup raises its third round of financing.
Are you prepared to replace the founder…the early champion…of the company? Are you prepared to engineer the replacement of the founder when you realize he or she is not up to the task? Neither is an easy task. You will be viewed by some as a usurper if you replace the founder and as a traitor if you engineered the replacement of the founder. Either may be thankless…yet often necessary tasks that someone must take on.
Can you be an organizational change agent?
If you don’t join a startup as a CEO, will you be able to be a change agent for the company?
  • Startups are flat organizations, usually loosely run, and are often fun places to work.
  • Someone must bring needed structure and organization and often those types come from the corporate world. This type of change is often viewed unfavorably at a startup.
  • Someone has to take on the tasks of HR, financial management, organizing effective work teams.
  • That is not to say the original team members are not doing some very good things, it just means they may not be doing enough and your job is to help them do it better.
Can you bring new ideas?
You will also be bringing new ideas to the startup. The early members of a startup team are often convinced that there is only one way to success – their way and the way of their founder.
  • New ideas may be welcome, yet are often a threat. Keep focus.
  • Do you have the confidence to bring new ideas, fight for the ideas and risk that those ideas may be wildly successful or dismal failures?
  • Championing new ideas is a challenging task in the slower moving corporate world; yet I like to say that mistakes usually won’t mean anyone dies. Championing ideas in the entrepreneurial world that are failures may have more significant consequences. Someone may not die, but the company may die. Are you ready for that responsibility?
Responsibility and Accountability
Finally, in the entrepreneurial world, responsibility and accountability are much more pronounced.  In the corporate world you have often seen people easily pass the buck in making decisions or taking responsibility for decisions. You have heard people say, “It’s not my job” or “I don’t have time for this” or “That wasn’t my decision.” You may have said it yourself.
In the entrepreneurial world, that is almost impossible to do. The organization will remain fairly flat. There are too few people doing many things. Everyone knows who is responsible for what, and it will be almost impossible to pass the buck.
In fact, as the old Trumanism goes, “The Buck Stops Here” and it will be on your desk. Are you ready?
jeff hayzlett bio blog pic
Jeffrey Hayzlett is a global business celebrity and speaker, bestselling author, Contributing Editor and Host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett on Bloomberg Television. He is the CEO of The Hayzlett Group, an international strategic business consulting company focused on leading change and developing high growth companies. Connect with Hayzlett on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or email.