In this series, professionals share how they embrace the entrepreneurial mindset. See the stories here, then write your own (use #BetheBoss in the post).

I was a senior executive with 3,500 people reporting to me globally. I had worked my way up and found my place in corporate life. I had it all: a big expense account, a big budget, and a big salary. So with all of these big things happening for me what did I do? I quit, of course!

No, I didn’t break down. No, I wasn’t sacked. It was simply because I had reached my goal, and I was now bored. I had just finished a big project on improving our Customer Experience (in the year 2000), before the words Customer Experience were even a term. I had the idea of a second career. A second journey to establish a consulting company based on Customer Experience. My new goal was to become the world’s foremost authority on the subject.

Five books later, many keynote speeches, and many radio and TV interviews behind me, I am on my way to that goal.

I have never looked back.

Since 2002, I have learned some truths about starting my own business. Truths every entrepreneur should consider before they strike out on their own, leaving those comfortable, secure positions behind them and being the boss once in for all.

Truth #1:

Fear Should Motivate You, Not Stop You

When I made the decision to leave corporate life. I was scared. I had three kids
just approaching college age and an expensive lifestyle. Was I really prepared to lose all of that?

I had a reputation. I was a success. Would I be in this new role?

There is one thing most people who are considering starting their own business worry about: What if I fail? Or a more specific version: What if I crash and burn, and we lose everything?

It’s a fair concern. It could happen. But it couldn’t happen, too.

For anyone considering leaving a job to start their own business, I would offer one important piece of advice: Being afraid is never the reason not to try. Fear could have stopped me from changing my career and my life for the better. If I had listened to my fears, I might still be in my former position — or even worse, NOT in my former position! But fear is also good. It motivates you to work hard and plan. It drives you.

When it comes to risk, there are sometimes legitimate reasons not to take one. However, fear of failure isn’t one of those reasons. It should motivate you to do your best and take it seriously, but it should never stop you.

Truth #2:

Negative Reinforcement Positively Won’t Work

One of your jobs leading a team is to inspire people to do what you want. Inexperienced bosses think you do this by being firm (and furious) with your
team. That’s one way to go, but in my experience, positive reinforcement works loads better. We all know that old saying, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” It’s both old and well-known because it’s true. When you are talking about inspiring behavior you like, there is no faster path to it than emotional rewards and positive feelings.

Does that mean your whole team has to hold hands and skip through the meadow? Of course not!  Negative reinforcement has its uses. However, the most consistent inspiration tends to be positive.

Truth #3:

You Have Faults That Didn’t Go Away When You Became “The Boss.”

Everyone has faults (except my wife of course! 🙂 A joke, darling, in case you are reading this). No matter where you go, there they are. If you get defensive when you are stressed about earnings, you will continue to do that even when the stress concerns your own earnings.

For example, I am not great at interviewing new hires. I never have been because I am easily swayed by people. I want to believe they are as great for the job as they think they are. It’s a fault of mine that I recognize as a part of my entire career, and it didn’t go away like magic as soon as the people I was hiring were for my own company. So I work around it by having others in my organization interview people also. It helps. Fewer bad hires and also a chance for the candidate to get a few different people’s read on the company.

When you blow it, admit it. Honesty is the best policy (nearly always), and especially when you are to blame because of one of your faults. Acknowledge your mistake (or fault), apologize for the problem, and present a plan to fix the damage. This will not only fix the immediate problem, but it will also build a bridge of trust with your team and ironically makes you stronger as a leader.

Starting my own business has been great for me. It has opened doors and provided opportunities for my development and happiness that I might never have had in my corporate job.

When you are considering a big move like becoming your own boss, it’s important to consider these three truths — and crunch a lot of numbers! It’s normal to have the fear of failure, to have to find your stride as leader, and to manage your faults even as “the Boss.”

But another important truth is that I left my corporate job and never looked back in spite of them.

And the truth is you could, too.

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Colin is proud to be recognized by Brand Quarterly’s as one of the ‘Top 50 Marketing Thought Leaders over 50’.


Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX