It turns out that entrepreneurship hasn't been such a cakewalk for executives leaving large companies, as some business publications have made it sound. Hard evidence of the problems can be found in, among other places, the files of Paul Ray & Co., a professional search firm based in Fort Worth. Ray says his company receives some 3,500 unsolicited rÉsumÉs per month from executives looking for work. Recently, he did a bit of research into the backgrounds of the people on file. "More than 20% left the corporate world to start a business, just couldn't manage the transition, and are now looking to get back into a large company."

Ray says many of those big-company refugees were simply nave. "They had no idea of the level of sacrifice required to start their own companies, not to mention the enormous range of business know-how you need compared with the specialized knowledge of a manager in a large company. Nobody ever told them what was in store for them. As a result, they were doomed from the beginning."

Ironically, the ones who fail fastest may be better off. "Corporations are wary of hiring people who have been out on their own too long," says Ray. "They've become accustomed to such a high degree of freedom and flexibility that they would find it very hard to adjust to life in a large company again." Big companies are much more open to hiring those who have been out for a relatively short time, he says.

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