Launching a Business? Don’t Leap Before You Leverage

August 14, 2013  

jumpI’ve had a recurring conversation with quite a few friends and colleagues lately. They’re unhappy in their current jobs and want to do something different. For many, this means becoming an entrepreneur and launching their own business. Conventional wisdom suggests they will follow one of two distinct paths:

  1. They’ll leave their current jobs and make the leap, the philosophy being that if you stay where you are, you will never make a change.
  2. They’ll stay where they are until they have enough “security.” The reality is, that no one ever feels secure enough to make the change.

However, there is a third option that isn’t often discussed.

The question isn’t when to leap, but rather how to leap. Ask yourself a simple question: How can I leverage the assets of my current employer in a way that will help me with my future endeavor?

Use the Access You Have

If you want to become an entrepreneur, having a great product or service isn’t enough. Small businesses fail not because of a lack of talent or ideas; they fail because the can’t—or don’t—sell. You need contacts and relationships. These are often hard to establish when you are on your own. But if you are working for a major corporation, you can leverage your employer’s brand to help better position your future business for success.

Large companies have access to a lot of people, including some very influential people. Just saying that you work for a major company can open doors that would otherwise remain closed. Even if your new business venture is in an unrelated field, you can still leverage your current situation.

When considering opportunities for leverage, consider the following:

  • What are you doing within your current role?
  • What do you wish to do in the future?
  • How can you leverage the contacts, connections, resources and people within your current company to help you build your future business?

Build Your Future Brand

In addition to leveraging employer opportunites, there’s no time like right now for creating buzz for your future business. Start by building your personal brand. Take, for example, what these three people are doing.

One person I know who wants to launch his own business is looking for opportunities to get his content published on his employer’s website. This is a benefit to him since his employer’s site has significantly more visitors than his current blog.

Another person I know is interested in becoming a consultant. She is leveraging her current employer’s credibility to obtain speaking opportunities at major conferences. This will increase her exposure, and personal brand, exponentially.

Someone else is forming business connections now that would be extremely difficult to establish after leaving his position in a large corporation.

Respect Current Employers

To be clear, all these individuals are interested in adding as much value as possible to their current employers. In fact, the people who look to step out on their own often produce higher levels of results, in part because the result is often mutually beneficial.

I know firsthand what this is like. Back in 1995, I was ready to leave my position at Accenture. I wanted a change. But as it turns out, the change did not have to take place outside the company. With the help of others, we launched a 20,000-person process-and-innovation practice. I not only added more value to the organization, but I was reenergized and significantly more satisfied in my new role.

On the back of that work, I was able to leverage the firm’s connections to get a publishing deal with McGraw-Hill. It was at this point, in 2001, that I left Accenture.

Knowing when to leap is a difficult decision to make, and if you leap too quickly, you may be missing great opportunities for leveraging your current position. Instead of leaping across the chasm, find ways of building a bridge from where you are today to where you want to be in the future. When you do this, the transition is a lot easier and more likely to be successful.

This article originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum

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