"That's a wrap!"
I was ending my nine-year marketing career at Johnson & Johnson on a high. I had a team of people working for me, had gotten to travel the world launching and promoting our products, and I got to do super-cool photo and video shoots for our advertising campaigns.
I was "living the dream." But even though I loved marketing, and many of the things I got to do as a part of the job, my dream was always to be an entrepreneur.
I had finally reached a point where my soul would no longer allow me to ignore it. So I quit my job to start my own business.
I quickly learned that entrepreneurship is vastly different from the corporate environment. The lessons I've since learned have made all the difference in my effectiveness as a business owner.
Here are the top five that required me to unlearn what I knew from the corporate world:
1. Nobody cares
Titles, years of experience, and high-profile projects are high currency when building a corporate career.
In entrepreneurship, not so much. Customers care only about whether or not you can help them. They care about whether you understand their challenges. They care about how you make them feel.
When it comes to making an impact as your own boss, give people a reason to pay attention to you that puts them in the spotlight. Not you.
2. Permission not required
In the corporate world, if you have a new idea you want to implement, you've got to go and get buy-in from key players. After rustling up the support you need, you're able to move forward. The process could take months.
As a business owner, if you want to implement a new idea, just do it. No permission or external buy-in is required.
Want to start a podcast? Get a mic and start recording. If you want to launch a new product line, create your design specs and start building.
The sooner you start, the sooner you're able to learn what works and what improvements you need to make.
3. Deep is better than wide
Over the course of my nine years at J&J, I had seven different positions. It was fun to take on different roles and get promoted, and the diversity of experiences better prepared me to be a generalist--which is helpful in climbing the corporate ladder.
As an entrepreneur, there are only a few skills I need to master to build the business I want. I've had to learn to dig deep in one or two specific disciplines as I strive toward mastery.
The better I get, the more my business benefits.
4. Failure isn't a death sentence
Failing on a project can derail a corporate career. So we worked hard to do everything in our power to do things we were pretty sure would work.
That resulted in us playing it safe much of the time, never straying too far outside our comfort zones.
As an entrepreneur, the one who fails the most wins. Failures give you insight, and lessons learned. Failures help you innovate, and come up with breakthrough ideas.
This was a tough lesson for me to embrace. But the more I've gotten comfortable with experimenting and trying new things to grow my business, the more opportunities I've created.
5. "Ready" is a myth
When going through the performance review process each year, we would often note if people on our teams were "ready now" or "ready later" for a promotion or more responsibilities.
The truth is, you will never be truly ready. You train and prepare as much as you can to produce good work and solve your customers' problems.
But the way to get prepared to do great work and serve every day is by doing the work and serving. As you go along, you learn and iterate.
It may not always be pretty (see #4). But there is no substitute for experience and rolling up your sleeves to "do the thing" to help you get "ready" to do it again. Only better.
You can succeed, and you can build a business that makes life better for the people you serve. You've just got to shed some limiting mindset beliefs like the ones above that will hold you back.
Then go do the work.