Should You Stay an Employee or Start Your Own Business?

The career path is not a simple as it used to be. The market is volatile. Jobs are disappearing, never to come back. Company loyalty is often a thing of the past. Layoffs and early retirements have occurred in the last 5 years. Entrepreneurship is now an MBA course. Technology has opened up opportunities not available a few years ago. Everyday more people are considering the possibility of owning their own business, are you one of them?

Should You Stay an Employee or Start Your Own Business?

Here are some things to consider:

Structure versus Flexibility: Big companies have the infrastructure and policies to keep it running well.  an employee you have a Job Description that lists specific duties. Your job performance is measured against specific goals set for your position in the company. In most organizations, everyone knows his/her place.  If rigidness keeps you focused, this may be a good choice for you.

Smaller firms, particularly startups, invent and reinvent themselves as they grow. Goals are fluid and a new opportunity can completely change the company’s direction. If you like to do new things every day and you’re not afraid of change, owning your own company might be an option for you.

Focus versus Multitasking: With a larger corporation, you’ll likely have few dedicated tasks to complete. You’ll only interact with certain people and departments and your work may have a lot of routine. Because of the company’s size, you will be able to focus on one project or responsibility and rely on others to complete their responsibilities.

A start-up doesn't have enough people to allow any one person to focus on just one task or problem at a time. Small start-ups often start with the founder and maybe one or two other people. As the founder you are responsible for marketing (including social media and networking), attracting customers, serving those customers, finding capital, managing your cash flow, billing and the list goes on. Chances are that every day will have more projects and work than you can compete. You will have to constantly prioritize the work that needs to be done.

Plentiful Resources versus Not Enough: Generally, large companies have the resources to meet their goals. Office equipment, supplies, accounting and other services are readily available to them. They have internal systems and teams to support the business. They have an internal IT department. Legal resources are in-house. Often the solution to the problem is just a call or work-order to another internal department.

Startups don’t have enough of anything. Every dollar needs to go in about 20 different directions. Often you need to make do with limited equipment and supplies. If you’re lucky, there’s a computer geek on the team who takes care of problems when he or she has time.

Growth versus Survival: Large corporations can go for years before they notice that they're in financial trouble. Several quarters of million-dollar losses can be absorbed without affecting anything other than stock prices. Additional capital is often easier to access. Eventually financial problems will lead to layoffs, but first they will trim training budgets and travel. The focus turns to increasing revenue - and survival is always assumed.

Startups, on the other hand, are almost always in some form of survival mode. Every sale is critical, expenses have to be carefully monitored. Something as simple as attending a conference has to be carefully weighed. How will attending the conference add to the bottom line? There is a constant tension. The "wolf is almost always outside the door" as losing a few key customers can force the business to close it doors. Changing negative economic conditions can adversely affect a small business much quicker.

Risk versus reward: Working in a large corporation can be very lucrative.  A large corporation often offers bigger salaries, great benefits and at least the perception of stability. However, most employees reach a ceiling within in the corporation. Career advancement eventually slows depending on the size and structure of the corporation. Each job designation has limits on salary growth over time.

Start-ups usually do not provide even the illusion of stability. The weekly paycheck does not exist. Gone is the paid vacation. There is no guarantee that your company will be a success. However, the cap on your income growth has likely been removed. You are only limited by the structure of the company you have created. If you have created a company that basically creates a job for you, you are limited by time. However, your hourly charge or value is established by the industry and the customer. If you are building a business with an infrastructure of employees, various products and services and a potentially larger customer base, your potential income has no ceiling.

The Truth is...

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It is harder than a day job. You can quit a job you don't like, it is much harder to get out of a business once you have started it.

In the Corporate World your world is dominated by your job description. In most cases you can survive by just getting by. In other words "C" work will keep you from getting fired. When you own your own business, you have to push yourself to limit just to get one thing done right. You have to constantly be on your "A" game. If not, your company will not success over time.

For a small business owner or entrepreneur, Terror and Excitement are NOT Mutually Exclusive.

The key question is "Are You RIGHT for Entrepreneurship?" It is important to go through a "Know Thyself" analysis before you make the jump. As an entrepreneur your paycheck depends only only you and your choices. You will be the master of your time, can you use it effectively. You will have to create structure and vision where there is none. Every decision you make will have direct consequences to the outcome of your business. Can you handle that kind of responsibility. Being in business for yourself can be the best decision you ever make in your professional life or the worst. You have to be temperamentally cut out for it. Under the best of circumstances, it will probably be a tough road. Some of us are artists, others are lawyers or accountants. Some people want to travel the world, others want to stay close to home. Some people are entrepreneurs and some are not.

There is a simple entrepreneur quiz in a well-known business book by Steven D.Strauss entitled The Small Business Bible

You have to take a hard look at how you will physically, mentally, emotionally and financially make the move to becoming a small business owner or entrepreneur.

As Dave Kilpatrick of Marketing Sherpa says " Are you ready to give up steady pay for a steady say?"