Should you stay in corporate or start your own business?

Recently, I find myself having a recurring conversation (be it around the dinner table or WhatsApp group chats) about whether one should leave corporate to follow their passion? Most of the women I speak to are so unhappy in the corporate world and they just want out. There are many reasons as to why they are unhappy but the most common ones are: “my kids need me at home”, “I am tired of doing something I don’t have a passion for”, or “I feel so lonely and isolated”. I can completely relate to these reasons.

When these women approach me to ask my opinion on their options of ‘should I stay at my job or should I start my own business?’, I am not really sure what to say. Both choices come with pros and cons.

The pros of starting your own business are independence and flexibility. You are your own boss and you own your time. You do not have to report into someone or deal with colleagues who are in constant competition with you. BUT, you may not have the money you are accustomed to.

I stayed in the corporate industry for 25 years and it produced some of the best moments in my life. I also made some bad decisions along the way and ended up in places that were not aligned to my core values. So by the time I left corporate, I was no longer enjoying how it made me feel. I was physically and mentally exhausted. While I do miss the financial aspects as well as the challenges of working on great projects, I would not change what I have right now. Being able to have time to watch my daughter swim and hear her sing and knowing that I’m working towards my own legacy and my own business is more fulfilling than anything else.

When I hear other women struggle to make the choice to leave corporate on go it on their own, I empathise with them because I understand the dilemma they face. I faced it too. It is not an easy decision to make and the risks are high so you have to weigh up what makes more sense for you in your medium to long term future. Most women can’t leave their jobs because of the financial pressures they have. And to be honest, having your own business can add more of a financial strain to your life. The first 3 years of being in business is the most challenging time. In some fortunate cases, you will probably only start making decent profits after year 1 but most of the time, however, it takes 3 years to just break even. You literally have to cut your living costs to down to basics. I’ve had to cut my budget by two-thirds from what I was living on previously. I became quite ruthless on what I spent my money on. It did, however, teach a lot about how much I was wasting on unnecessary things.

Another thing to point out is the knock your ego will take when you become an entrepreneur. You need to learn to make peace with your EGO because when you see your friends climbing that corporate ladder, you may feel that you are missing out.

So I cannot make this tough decision for you but what I can do is suggest that you weigh up your options on whether staying in a big corporate is better or taking the risk and starting your own venture is the way to go.

Should you decide to leave your corporate job, here’s a few things you will need to consider:

  1. Decrease your debt – car, house and any other debts you have accumulated. Go see a good independent financial adviser who advise you on this.
  2. Relook at your monthly expenditures – what unnecessary costs can you cut down on? Sorry ladies but those nice expensive handbag purchases need to go…
  3. Start saving more each month – your bonus and any extra monies you may have need to go into your savings fund. Make sure you have at least 6-12 months worth of savings.
  4. If you have kids, you need ensure that their education does not get affected by your choice – will you have enough to still keep them at their schools?
  5. Ensure that you’ve done enough research on the business you want to start and that it’s a viable idea – Is it something you are passionate about? Does it make you feel good and does it answer a problem that people encounter and are willing to pay money for?
  6. Try and get someone to work on your business whilst you are still at your job – but you may have to declare these outside interests to your company.
  7. Make sure that you are mentally and physically prepared to take this on – there will be moments when you feel like it’s just too tough and the hurdles are too high. This is when you need to pull together all your strength and be tougher than your challenges. And remember you are not alone.

Lastly no one can make this decision for you. Only you can and it’s about what makes you happy. And when the time is right – you will know it.

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