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5 great tips to keep in mind on how to make the great leap from corporate to start-up


The corporate world, although relatively stable and very lucrative, can quite quickly lose its intriguing allure. Without drive, purpose or passion, even the CEOs of the highest corporate calibre can become demotivated and seek change.

Yet as we grow older, research indicates we are less likely to make significant career moves. People aged 45 and older are staying in a role for an average of 6 years and 8 months. Interestingly, for those who do take the plunge, the average age of the most successful entrepreneurs is 45 years old.

I made the switch from corporate to start up a few years ago. Below, I share my experience and my top five ways to seamlessly make the transition from corporate to running your own business.

Know your purpose and your why

Research shows, the number one reason for someone starting a business is personal financial gain. Whilst returns can be high if the growth is lasting, the key to a fruitful and sustainable start-up is to have a clear purpose and understanding of why you are doing what you are doing.

At the same time, it’s equally important to remind yourself why you can be a successful start-up, especially in your 30’s to 40’s with a corporate background. This milestone indicates experience with management and deeper industry specific knowledge that, nine times out of 10, will lead to a stronger sense of purpose and reasoning for creating a start-up.

By 40, many have figured out what they want to do and why, are more financially stable and have relevant networks that can be leveraged to support the business concept.

Shift your network

In a corporate work environment, most will have family, friends and a particular set of colleagues that they continually connect with. However, this has to change when building a start-up. The start-up sphere requires a very different mindset, having the right people around you can help you succeed. Connect with others who have been though these experiences (building or scaling a start-up), or who are facing similar opportunities and challenges.

LinkedIn is a great place to start; research who is in the same industry, and find those that are five to 10 years ahead. Attending events, joining industry-specific communities and reaching out to your network for introductions are also other great ways to forge new connections. It’s also important to give your time to those coming to you for advice or guidance, as business knowledge is more powerful when shared.

Hire thoughtfully

Running a start-up goes back to the very basics of the corporate world. While the recruitment and employee process will not be as quick as large businesses, it will be more crucial. Putting in all the hard yards by yourself will begin to take a toll and it’s important that, when it is affordable, to bring on extra help. To do this effectively, hire thoughtfully.

Don’t jump into long contracts or if you can, refrain from hiring full-time staff at all unless they have a unique skill the business needs. Utilise paid interns and strategic advisors as much as possible especially while the business is still developing and growing. If you do engage someone in the initial stages, make sure you can trust them and that they have the same vision for your business.

Prioritise self-care and practise time management

There is no shelter in the start-up world, no one telling you what to do or how to do it. This means sometimes going in circles trying to get to the next stage of business and juggling a million things at once. Tune into how you work best and create your work habits around this.

With so much to do in the initial stages of a start-up, it is important to prioritise self-care. Whether it’s regular exercise, meditation or setting aside time for friends, this will avoid burning out.

Utilise your previous experience and skills

Having corporate experience before leaping into the start-up world is a huge asset. Utilise this previous experience and inject it into your start-up. Skills such as emotional intelligence, stakeholder management, leadership and communication are what make or break corporate organisations and will either catapult or flunk a start-up.

Founders of start-ups that are also able to understand the end user, maintain investor relations and stakeholder relations, blend corporate connections with new networks and implement processes and structure already hold the keys to being a successful entrepreneur. While the corporate world seems similar at times, there is definitely a bonus; less politics.

Emma Sharley is the Founder of Sharley Consulting and Co-Founder of personalised shopping app, Shop You. Emma is one of the expert panellists at the Mrs V Shift Day Event on the 27th of September at The Langham Sydney. The event is aimed at empowering and educating individuals on how they can build their best self to remain resilient and irreplaceable in the workforce. There will be 22 expert speakers in total who will discuss business, health, careers, finance and marketing.