Having left the corporate world after 8 years of service (not including 2 years off for MBA school), the last year I’ve spent on my own. I’m not the biggest risk taker in the world, so this was not an easy decision. I regularly spend time with what I call the “true entrepreneurs”, guys who knew in high school they wanted to be the ones calling their own shots running their own business. They are the ones so sure of their ideas they were willing to fund their businesses on personal debt to see it through, were ok when it didn’t work out and got back up and did it again.
I am not that guy.
I was perfectly content working for someone else and letting them pay me to learn how to build cool stuff ( my first full-time job was writing multi-player casual games). But there was always this desire to want to do more and push myself further. So, once I reach a point where I didn’t see myself being challenged in my current environment, I changed my environment. Even though I’m sure most of my family thought I was crazy, but that’s a story for another day.
Another reason I’m “not that guy” is because I actually find value in formal education. I’ve had several discussions with some of these “true entreprenuers” who think entrepreneurs should not go to school. I’m not where I am today without my formal education and 2 Masters Degrees( yes, 2). I do well in school, I do well on standardized tests, I know how the system works. There’s comfort in that.
So, naturally, I went back to school to change my environment. It was during MBA school where I was first exposed to the world of startups. Yes, an MBA is what convinced me I wanted to do my own startup. I already knew the technology aspect of things, but now through MBA school, and more importantly my exposure to venture capital while in school, I gained confidence that the business side of things is not all that scary either.
But even then, I still couldn’t pull the trigger and go off on my own :) (Did I mention I have a wife and 4 kids to support!)
After a 2 year stint with an established, but small, publishing company where I was given the opportunity to work my way into the CEO position and later merge that operation in with another company where I became a VP of Biz Dev, I found myself being laid off for the first time in my career.
Being laid off was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Everyone should get laid off once in their life to realize there are more important things than a being employed.
Finally, I had the guts to do what I had been itching to do for years and “Eat what I kill”. For anyone who has any software development skills, making a living on your own is not hard to pull off. I don’t do any advertising and only work with a few select companies I have relationships with and do just fine. But, more importantly I only work 2-3 days a week most weeks for these clients, which means I have plenty of time to pursue my own product development and ideas, which I’ll be launching a big project this year.
Granted, I don’t make as much as I used to when I was at a CEO or VP salary, but getting by and only having to work 2 days a week has it’s perks too.
Ultimately, I plan to get back to being more in the CEO role like I was before, but it will be around a product and company I built from the ground up and am much more passionate about. I’m excited for this year and for knowing I can do just fine on my own no matter what happens and agree with James when he says Life Tastes Better When You Eat What You Kill.