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6 Steps to go from Employee to Entrepreneur

Becoming a successful entrepreneur takes more than a great idea. Making the shift from the steady life of a full-time employee to the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship requires a shift in mindset that many don’t plan for, some of the work habits you so carefully honed as a good employee don’t necessarily translate well into the world of an entrepreneur.

According to the Small Business Administration, more than half of new businesses will survive to see their fifth year. Making that mental switch from employee to entrepreneur can help you avoid being one of those businesses that doesn’t make it. Here are seven tips for thriving while adjusting to life as an entrepreneur:

1. Learn to say no and when to say yes
As an employee in a big company, you probably got used to saying “yes” to any and all requests that came your way. After all, “yes” meant you were reliable and a team player and that can-do attitude probably earned great reviews from your manager. However, this approach won’t get you far as an entrepreneur. For starters, with the time-pressed entrepreneurial schedule, agreeing to and doing everything just isn’t possible. But more importantly, as an entrepreneur, you need to set the agenda, a clear path for your goals, a plan to follow your road map and a defined calendar with your daily, weekly and monthly activities, all based on your overall objectives for short term and long term goals. Get used to saying “no” to everything but your main priorities. Just the opposite; if an action will take you closer to your goal, than its “heck yes”

2. Forget about being perfect
Maybe you used to have a boss that needed to get a project as close to perfection as possible. Or, there were endless rounds of revisions before something was ready to go. While that may be the way at a large company, a small business or startup won’t have the resources to get something to “perfect” and the whole notion of perfection isn’t possible anyway.

As an entrepreneur, perfectionism can become a liability. The longer you wait for every detail to be just right, the slower your business will move. Focus priorities and your path to your goals, as stated perfectly by NIKE, you just have to “do it”!

3. Don’t be scared of long hours
Many people equate the entrepreneurial lifestyle with a lot of freedom, and many vacations and time off. While both of these may be possible, the typical entrepreneur often finds that they need to work longer hours than back at the office. On some days you might be trading in the 9-to-5 for 9-to whatever. This is why it’s important to start something you love. And remember that you’re working to build your own dream, not someone else’s. You never want to dedicate more time to following someone else’s dream than your own.

4. Get ready to wear multiple hats
As a company employee, there’s someone to call when the server stops working. And you probably don’t think about sweeping the floor, cleaning the bathroom or running to the post office to buy stamps But, you’ve now got to fill a number of different roles, including of course more important jobs like, accounting, sales, marketing, customer service, etc. With this reality, you can’t afford to have an ego. Before setting off on your own, ask yourself if you’ll be comfortable wearing all these hats, including the less-than-glamorous ones.

5. Get ready to be lonely
When you were working at a big company, you may have complained relentlessly about your colleagues and managers. However, once you leave the office you might be surprised to discover just how much you relied on your co-workers.

The first few weeks of being on your own can be quite a shock, particularly if you’re working out of your home. Do what you can to combat this social isolation. Keep in touch with former colleagues. Work from a coffee shop for a few hours. Find a shared office or co-working space and attend lots of local networking events, but keep your eye on the prize. Stay motivated.

6. Create an entrepreneur emergency fund
While success as an entrepreneur often boils down to mindset, there are a few practical considerations as well. In one word…it’s cash. You’ll be going from a salaried employee to wondering when your next check will come in. If possible, before you leave your job, put away an entrepreneur fund with 3-6 months’ worth of expenses (perhaps more, depending on the nature of your new venture). Having a solid safety net will allow you to focus your energy on building your new business, rather than worry about how you are going to pay the bills.

Note: The advice above is for anyone that is currently looking to become an entrepreneur from currently being an employee. It is more specifically geared towards those starting with their own capital (which is the reality for most entrepreneurs) and not as much for those starting with outside money, such as private equity, venture capital or angel funding, which would enable that founder to launch with a complete or semi-complete team. However, and in reality the same rule applies, to both. The difference would be that if you are starting with outside money, then initially they would start with a more complete team, including a management team, whereas the individual starting on his or her own monetary funding will most likely start with a smaller team or no team at all, AKA a “solopreneur” . Remember, this post is not based on strategies to grow your business. It’s intent is stated in the title. Here is quick video interview on a wildly successful global entrepreneur who runs over 400 companies. Mr.Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin companies.

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