My own boss

In the concluding part of the series on investing in your career, MONEY TODAY presents a guide on how to switch from an employee to an entrepreneur.

By Rajshree Kukreti | Print Edition: January 11, 2007

An enterprising person is one who comes across a pile of scrap metal and sees the making of a wonderful sculpture. An enterprising person is one who drives through an old decrepit part of town and sees a new housing development. An enterprising person is one who sees opportunity in all areas of life.” — Jim Rohn, motivational speaker and personal development trainer.

You know you are a good employee and so does your company. You execute the plans with precision, meet deadlines and in short, do all the hard work. And as you bask in the success does the thought of running your own show enter your mind? What if it was your own enterprise and you were the boss?

If you are one of those who have been nurturing the idea of running a business, don’t keep pushing it back. Work on the idea and watch the possibilities emerge. If that excites you then you are working in the right direction. Not everyone is a born entrepreneur. As Gordon E. Moore, co-founder Intel, had said, “There is such a thing as a naturalborn entrepreneur...But the accidental entrepreneur like me has to fall into the opportunity or be pushed into it.”

Giving up a comfortable, salaried job to venture into the unknown requires both passion and faith in the idea. And, of course, a support system — both financial and emotional — that will see you and your immediate dependents through the initial phase of struggle. Many first generation entrepreneurs work hard on creating a means of supporting the family first before taking the plunge.

As a conscientious employee you had planned most of your career moves, similarly turning into an entrepreneur would require a lot of planning. Working towards becoming your own boss requires discipline, initiative and dedication.

If as an employee you were extremely efficient in carrying the ideas forward but not in taking decisions, then entrepreneurship may not be your cup of tea. Take up the challenge of setting up a venture only if you are a decisionmaker who is well-prepared to bear the consequences.

An employee who thinks like an entrepreneur while at work not only moves up the corporate ladder but gets naturally groomed to be one. Such people always think of ways in which their company can benefit. Small ideas of how to save money, innovations that can improve customer satisfaction are all valuable. If you think on behalf of the company, you are on the way to handling bigger things. Most successful employees who turned entrepreneurs had adopted this pro-active approach to their career. By being a hands-on person, they not only created a challenging and enjoyable career opportunity, but also learnt the tricks of the trade while on job.

But don’t let your eureka moment blind you to the obstacles ahead. MONEY TODAY consulted a couple of successful first generation entrepreneurs, who left their cushy jobs to start their own enterprise, to create the following checklist that will help you understand your potential as an entrepreneur. From becoming a successful employee to an employer, this MONEY TODAY series on career comes a full circle with this instalment.

Are you running away from a failure?

If workplace failure is the reason you want to set up your own unit then the only word of advice we have for you is, beware. You may not be a good employee but your ideas just don’t seem to fructify. You have also changed roles across various departments of your organisation but things did not move the way you had visualised. You feel it is time to get rid of the constricting forces around you and test your ideas on your own. But before taking a rather risky plunge did you find out the reasons why your ideas were being shot down? Understand the market feasibility of the ideas before making them commercial. If you can’t convince your bosses about your idea, then how will you win over venture capitalists and your clients? Your workplace may be the best place to groom yourself for becoming an entrepreneur.

Do you have the “right” traits?

Being your own boss is a 24x7 job with low initial returns and the onus of success and failure resting on your shoulders. You not only have to be a self-starter but also the face of the company who has to interact with the team, customers, dealers, etc. Entrepreneurs need to demonstrate extreme selfconfidence in order to cope with all the risks of operating their own business. How well you handle a crisis will determine your strength as an entrepreneur. If you are the type who prefers to keep work pending, then turning an entrepreneur would require a change of mindset. Switching off from work will not be an easy task. Most importantly, are you passionate about the idea? “Do you keep thinking of improvising your plan for a successful implementation?” says Raman Roy, CMD Quatrro, who is an employee-turned-entrepreneur. You not only have to get the idea going but the idea should also get you going.

Is the big idea in place?

Has the idea been formalised in the form of a business plan? The plan will not only put the logistics of the idea in black and white but also act as a base on which to seek loans and get other clearances. A meticulously done up business plan talks about the product, company, marketing strategy, growth plans, future sales and receipts. It also serves as a means of communicating with potential partners, allies, vendors, employees and even customers. A thorough market research needs to be carried out before taking the plunge. While researching your own company’s niche, consider the results of your market survey and the areas in which your competitors are already established. A welldesigned database can help you sort through your market information and reveal particular segments you might not see otherwise. For example, do customers in a certain geographic area tend to purchase products that combine high quality and high price more frequently? Do your small business clients take advantage of your customer service more often than larger ones? If so, consider focusing on being a local provider of high-quality goods and services, or a service-oriented organisation that pays extra attention to small businesses.

How dependent are you on your team?

You may understand the nuances of the business but will you collapse without your adviser? If the answer is yes, then take stock of your business once again. Your team is very important for running the show, but your lack of knowledge of the systems, key inputs, could lead to a slowdown of processes. Setting up a business from scratch requires in-depth understanding of the processes. Not only of the product or the services you are about to launch but also of the procedural and legal systems. As an employee you can train yourself to be an entrepreneur by volunteering to be part of new projects. Successful entrepreneurs are mostly hands-on persons who are equally comfortable assembling their products as marketing them.

Are you ready with a support system?

Finances will be a bit tight initially for most first-generation businesspersons. Before giving up your regular income job, account for finances that will run your daily expenses. Rent from a home or a shop could well be a secondary source of income; a working spouse is a great support and so are the timely investments made in mutual funds, share market, etc. Importance of emotional support from family and friends cannot be discounted.

When Su-kam CEO Kunwer Sachdev was struggling to find a foothold in the fledgling cable market, it was his wife who’d slip notes of encouragement in his pockets. In spite of all planning, failure is a possibility. So a plan that will buffer the impact of loss arising out of a failure needs to be put in place before rolling out the original idea.

Most start-ups are so grateful to their customers that they forget to look towards expansion plans. It is equally important to target the right customers, plan diversification and revisit your clients for further inputs. Being consistent with the product is as important as adding value to it. Don’t let the initial success lull you into complacency. For the business to grow, expansion plans have to be readied as soon as the product has been rolled out. If it is a catering business you should have started thinking of adding value by introducing themebased concepts or exotic cuisine. Holding on to your customer’s loyalty needs continuous quality upgradation of both product and services.

Welcome to the world of high risks and high rewards!

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