When I was asked to write about corporate life vs running your own business, I thought it was a good time to dispel certain myths and write a bit about my own experiences. While I worked in the corporate world for 14 years, I have been running Empower for two years now – that might not be comparable in “man” years, but I would argue entrepreneurship years are more akin to “dog” years – no pun intended – therefore about the same in my eyes.
My husband would argue that I am married to my phone. I would argue I am a “brand” in myself. I no longer have a big corporate name on my business card or a big balance sheet, which would help me pick up clients. I am a start-up entrepreneur, a one-man band competing with hundreds and millions of others, trying to differentiate myself and create my own USP. Therefore I respond to every single email I get, whether or not a revenue opportunity, blog, market myself on social media etc. – and for this reason my phone is my new best friend.
I no longer have an admin assistant or a secretary who makes my travel plans, manages my calendar and makes my lunch or dinner reservations. I am boss, secretary, web developer, PR person, social media person, accountant and … the list is endless. I juggle many, many more balls than I did when I was in the corporate world and had many resources at my disposal.
I work many more evenings than I did – perhaps it was the nature of my job when I left the corporate world, but I now need to lead generate on my own. If I am not out there selling myself, no one is. Over time, yes I would hope my own work, my reputation and word of mouth starts playing a role, but as of now, I am still in that phase when I need to be out there. I spend many evenings a week juggling between fractions (aka my daughters’ homework) and evening events where I meet entrepreneurs, councillors, those who work in the third sector etc. It is a whole new world outside the corporate world – people who I did not even know existed.
I do not have an office – I work from home or from client sites. Many people think because I work for myself and because I work from home, I essentially do nothing of much importance – that I can meet a friend for lunch or coffee in the middle of the day or even take a mid-day nap!!! I wish this was the case, but just because I do not go into an office, does not mean I do nothing at home. Being a successful entrepreneur, albeit when you are still trying to make a success out of what you do, requires a lot of hard work and it is no different from being in the corporate world where you might have to report into work at a certain hour or have a boss who might be watching your comings and goings. This is probably a big myth and people need to realise that it is truly a myth!! I do have more flexibility and I control my own hours more so in the corporate world and I have always used this to my advantage; I have used this to attend events at my children’s schools or be at pick-up and drop-off, things I was unable to do in the past.
I don’t get a paycheck on the 30th of every month like I did in the corporate world; I might get paid, but this depends on the amount of client work I have and this could fluctuate depending on the length of my contracts. If you want to be assured an income each month or at least have some stability, entrepreneurship is probably not for you initially. As the business grows, I know this will change, but I have to be patient about it. Nothing happens overnight and if it was so easy to build businesses, everybody would be doing it! Please note that I have spent many sleepless nights as chief strategy officer of Empower trying to figure out how to make my business financially sustainable. I am sure all entrepreneurs have done this time and time again.
If asked whether I was a natural born entrepreneur, I do not know. Some people definitely are. Some people need a bit of corporate training to make mistakes under other people and then be left to flourish or fail on their own. I believe the corporate world taught me a lot about process and practices and provided me with a framework to run my own business. I have made many friends who have now turned into entrepreneurs and others who continue to rise and shine in big and small companies. I am very often asked to go back into a job. However, I love being an entrepreneur and all that it has to offer.
*Deepali Nangia is founder of Empower, a consultancy offering business support to female entrepreneurs, social enterprises and charities. Her website is www.empowerbizsupport.com and she can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.