Embracing the transition of employee to small business owner

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with a dream to work together, my husband and I embarked on a grand adventure – to become small business owners!  We had more passion, motivation and self-belief than you could poke a stick at.  We had skills, experience, humility, an eagerness to learn, emotional intelligence, and fantastic supporters who also believed in us.  We had everything we thought we needed to make a go of this exciting new chapter in our lives after 26 years “workin’ for the man”, to quote Roy Orbison.

The first few years were challenging and exciting and we learned so much about retail, but mostly we learned about ourselves.  We learned about our values, what was important to us, what motivated us and what didn’t.  And in the end, that was the clincher – we weren’t really motivated by making money, we were motivated by giving superb customer service, and in our game, that wasn’t enough.

So, you’ve been an employee for some time, you’ve had enough of making money for someone else, you’ve got some great ideas and are ready to go it alone?  What do you need to successfully transition from employee to small business owner?

Here’s 5 tips for young players…



Do your homework, talk to other people who have done something similar and take as much wise advice as possible.  If you can, find a small business mentor who can give you support and the right information and networks to help you get established.  Don’t expect anyone to believe in your business/idea the way you do.  Prove it by the service you provide.


A good business plan is critical for your success – as long as you follow it.  Doing your homework, understanding your market, knowing who your ‘customers’ are and where they are, what they read, what they listen to etc is vital.  And follow the plan…


Working for yourself requires courage and self-belief.  This will get you through the inevitable low times when things aren’t’ going to plan and you begin to doubt yourself.  Have some inspirational books, posters, mantras, people around you to keep you up when you feel like dropping the ball.  It’s a normal part of the journey and the more often you rise up, the stronger you will get.  Read about how others have succeeded despite a struggle in the beginning, to inspire you.


Don’t expect any decent income for about a year – plan for 2 – as you don’t want to be worrying about money when you need to be creative and focused.  The stress of financial pressure is what breaks down relationships, health and creativity.  That also means it is better sometimes to start small and build up gradually so that you are not carrying too much debt.  Work out what you are prepared to lose and have an exit strategy – it takes the emotion out of the decision if things are not working.  And a wise accountant is worth more than the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!


Success leaves clues, according to legend Jim Rohn.  Master learning from those who have gone before – their successes and failures.  Get in the habit of ‘sitting at the feet’ of those you admire, particularly in your industry.  At the end of the day, self-employment is selling your products, services or ideas to make a living and the school of self-employment is experience.

Lastly, self-employment is not for everyone.  So, if you want to or need to, to prove something to yourself, go for it!  However, if it doesn’t work out, please don’t feel you have failed.  It’s all part of your life journey.  And after all, sometimes you need to try it on to find out if it fits.

Written by Meredith Telfer, Careers Specialist, Harvest Recruitment

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