First class coach

I've been working for a big company all my life and am getting bored with corporate life.

by Miranda Kennett
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I'm strongly attracted to leaving and setting up my own business, but I'm not sure I have the confidence to do it. What if I fail?

It is always worthwhile exploring ideas that hold a strong interest for us, especially when they relate to our working lives - we spend so much of our time working that it is important to find the job that inspires us to our greatest energy and satisfaction.

Several of my clients have successfully undertaken this sort of move. Each one had done the necessary preparation to be clear-eyed about what life would be like as their own boss, free from the corporate shackles, but also without the support of a large organisation. It is important not to underestimate how reassuring it is to have a salary cheque thudding into the bank account, month in, month out. And to be the one that is responsible for buying the loo roll can also be a salutary experience for someone who is habituated to an infrastructure that insulates them from the mundane tasks of office life.

The first step is to get as much information as you can about the realities of working in your chosen field. What would you find yourself doing on an average day? What skills would you need, and do these match your capabilities?

If not, are there others who would join you and bring qualities and experience that your business would need? What resources would your company require?

What's the model on which the business will be based? Believe it or not, many small companies (and several dot.coms) have been started with their founders never having established exactly how the business would make money. If finance isn't really your thing, make sure even at this exploratory stage you get the help of someone who has experience of setting up a business on the scale you envisage.

Even if your business would initially be only you, it is important to realise that others may well be happy to help you. Some of my clients have been encouraged to do their own thing because their life partner has pledged their support or because someone they trust and admire has volunteered to be their mentor during the start-up phase. This has helped their confidence and ensured that in the inevitable tricky times in the early days of their new venture they have had the necessary emotional and practical help they needed.

Have a good think about what it will be like to be your own boss. If you are partly prompted to break free of being a cog in a large machine to gain autonomy, it's worth considering what it will be like to be the one with whom the buck stops. My own experience of starting a small business was that the highs were higher and the lows were lower: if the business was successful there was no doubt that it was me who had been responsible for the success but, equally, if it faltered, there was no-one else to blame but myself.

In my case, this dynamic kept me focused, so that the wins always far exceeded the losses and the relative freedom of being my own boss was sufficiently sweet to tide me over the darker moments. For some, however - particularly those who have always worked in larger organisations - not having a boss proves a difficult adjustment to make and the burden of decision-making weighs heavy.

Once you have considered the logistics and the emotional side of starting your business and the idea still seems attractive, it's time to work out the first practical steps that will turn your idea into reality. Aim to reduce the risks and to provide yourself with some early wins. A client of mine who had worked for more than 20 years for a multinational made a successful transition to consultancy by arranging to provide freelance the key service he'd been providing in-house. This gave him the security of a basic income and continued contact with colleagues, while allowing him the time and opportunity to develop a separate client base for whom his skill set was valuable.

Proper investigation will help you decide whether starting your own business will provide the rewards you expect. This process might put you off, if the reality you discover doesn't match your vision; or it might reveal that you are already entrepreneurial and have most of what it takes to be successful. Either way, your satisfaction with what you do in future is likely to increase.

This may sound like quite a lot of work, but if you don't spend some time establishing the viability of your dream, you will probably always regret it. If you can't be bothered, it probably means you don't have the interest and tenacity it takes to realise your dream.

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