Vaishali Sanjay, Co-Founder of Mice Experts and Partner at Reputique, argues that 9 to 5 corporate employees can be good entrepreneurs – but a shift in mindset and skills is necessary.
When beginners lack mentorship, development, self-awareness or willingness they often do make dreadful entrepreneurs, which is probably why only 1 in 8 corporate employees get out to start their own entrepreneurial journey. It doesn’t have to be that way. Corporate employees can become incredibly powerful entrepreneurs if they proactively build the leadership skills and team to enable that, and it’s worth it for both the individual and the business.
Having poured their heart and soul into their full-time jobs, corporate employees are often devastated if they are shoved out to make way for a professional entrepreneur’. Meanwhile, research suggests there is both a performance and cultural benefit to the business.
While it’s eminently possible for an employee to become a powerful entrepreneur, the odds are stacked against them. Let’s first compare the experience of a Founder with their corporate counterpart. The typical CEO of a large corporation will have spent 15 to 20 years growing and developing first as a manager, then as a leader, before they get a crack at the top job. In the meantime, the founder of a fast-scaling start-up may be expected to shift from senior manager to CEO in 12 months, not 12 years. Adding the fact that the superpowers they’ve developed as entrepreneurial skills will become the kryptonite of their effectiveness as a CEO, and you can see what a challenge they face. Only corporate employees with enough willingness and humility to ask for help, and the right kind of support and counsel around them, are likely to make it.
It takes an intentional effort for corporate employees to shift their mindset, skills, and modus operandi from working for someone to working for themselves. Most corporate employees are Brave Warriors who quite like the idea of being independent. It’s that weak team support bit that they don’t like. The problem is the start-up would only be effective if a business is being managed by strong operational co-founders who are working effectively together. If the co-founders are weak or revolting – the start-up is in big trouble. If a business doesn’t yet have highly effective communication with a strong operational grip on the business, a founder is going to have to get their hands dirty and outsource unreliable options.
If corporate employees recognize themselves as Brave Warrior, who need to build a business, where do they start? The first step is some honest self-reflection around their current superpowers and vulnerabilities (a coaching word for weaknesses!). Every employee should consider to what extent they are single-minded in pursuit of a goal – indicating an entrepreneurial leadership style.
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The journey from corporate employee to entrepreneur is the journey from doer-in-chief to business-builder-in- chief, to strategist-and-figurehead-in-chief. Without an open mind and a supportive community around you, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed. Luckily, most corporate employees are spectacular and once they know what winning as a CEO will require, they have the drive and determination to see the journey through. Go well on the adventure with my profound admiration. Follow her on Instagram for more @vaishalisanjay.in