Marketing Planet

Entrepreneurship vs. employment: a genuine difference


This is the first of a series of articles about ImFusio’s creation from a marketing point of view. More about this series:.

Their previous article of this chronicle: Market Research… or the search for a market!

Introduction

Quitting an employer to become your own is just like getting on a boat thinking about the final destination, but not realizing the essence is in the actual journey, and the destination is never final… This article will be exploring the redefinition of our working frame and habits, and how we had to undergo a sustained and deep analysis of our attitudes and behaviours in front of these new challenges.

It can be paralleled to a «Usages and Attitudes» survey for a given customer target: it is important to understand their values, their purchase behaviours, their expectations, how they live, what they do, to fine tune the products, the offering, etc. Well, facing the realities of creating, developing and managing a business, we realized we had to revisit a lot of our convictions and preconceived ideas.

Jump in and see what can be done to manage and improve a key asset of your business plan and your offering: yourself!

The comfort of employment

Being employed brought us three levels of comfort:

  • The financial comfort: we had to work hard, so we could justify our pay checks. However, our performance had an effect only on a mid to long term basis, but rarely on a short term basis. The risk was limited, and easily managed.
  • The process comfort: we were part of a group, an entity, and whether we were a driver or a follower, we did not have to worry night and day about the “what to do?†or the “why do this rather than that?†because it was being expressed and managed collectively.
  • The time management comfort: this might be the biggest challenge, because you never see the truly positive aspects of office hours until you loose them.

The combination of the three brought a whole new dimension to our professional lives, and clearly challenged our pre-conceived convictions.

On the financial aspect, the key learning is simple: we have to work to earn money (and not to justify our pay check), and worse, it is not assured that it will be enough. This creates a different type of stress. The danger lies in feeling paralyzed. It has a direct impact on our relationship to time: suddenly, our anticipations go further and have a different feel.

Planning becomes a key driver, while it was only a tool amongst others in our employed life.
Process-wise, we suddenly had to think and decide on every single detail of our professional life. No more false excuses, it was the end of complaining about our boss, or hiding behind our personal bad opinion of management’s strategy. This as well had a direct impact on our relationship to time: if you take reporting to hierarchy or management away, you can easily procrastinate and never go anywhere.

Time management was indeed our biggest shock. We had never realized the chance of working office hours! Extracted from employment, it took us a few months to adjust to our new working times: as we already knew, we are not efficient 8 or 10 hours a day. But it is difficult to admit, and tough to change your habits. We now know when to stop trying if we are not efficient, and focus on something else… or relax and go back to work 2 hours or 10 hours later. In that perspective, your working hours are more flexible (with a clear tendency to widen too!). It creates this paradoxical sensation of total freedom and unbreakable ties with your work!

These differences made it difficult the first 6 to 9 months to be really efficient. It led to waste of energy, concentration, even personal confidence. We had to do something to improve this situation: understand what it was about and know how to react.

Learning about ourselves: a personal U&A study

We followed two routes: we looked for training that could help us improve in the fields we felt problematic, and we went out for advices, asking questions to our (more experienced) peers.

Training:

  • We followed a 3-day session helping us to understand our personal relationship to time, and how to improve your efficiency while limiting your feeling of guilt (for not doing what you think you should be doing). The key learning on this is that ready-made solutions are not applicable to all. If you are reading books about time management, be aware that all advices or exercises are not fit for you profile. Use the ones that seem simple, natural to manage – you will keep using them over time. Others, despite their excellence in practice, will be difficult to sustain over time, and only add to your feeling of guilt!

To give you an example: let’s say you are a creative person, always looking ahead, thinking about the next step, and not so keen in looking backward. With such a profile, it can be useful to create TO DO lists, to organize your day, and make sure you don’t forget anything important. But don’t be frustrated if you never do everything in your to-do list or if you never really look back at it! It is normal: your profile calls for moments where you put everything on paper to clarify your thoughts, but not for an item by item guideline for your day.

  • We also did our MBTI. It helps understand how you act in professional environments, and it helped us understand, as a team, how we work together. A very strong tool to enhance your self understanding.
  • We also rapidly identified fields where we could gain more expertise. We followed sessions that helped us improve professionally. They included training and group facilitation, phone marketing techniques, sales tools and techniques.

Networking:

We spent (and still do) a lot of time exchanging with peers, mentors, supportive people from our close friends or family. We actually created an informal group of 3 start-ups with similar profiles (selling B2B services, owned by two managers and created at the same period of time), to share our doubts, difficulties and ideas. It brings all of us a lot, and helps move forward when you have doubts or questions. We also have a couple of “mentors†, i.e. experienced people that informally support us, with advice and to whom we can show elements for feedback.

Networking to openly discuss your situation and doubts is the number one element to do, as, here again, it helps rationalize what we are experiencing, and improve.

And finally, we identified elements or expertises that we could not get without a tremendous effort. Since our energy goes into the project, we decided to use specialists to help us: accountants (it is a temptation in the beginning to save on this item by doing it yourself. It can be a big mistake once your business takes off), lawyer, PR, amongst others.

Conclusion

Take care of you when launching a business. You are, at its start at least, its most valuable asset. If you have malfunctions, or if you cannot identify some personal (and technical) limitations, you are putting your project at risk. No one can do it all by himself. Don’t be afraid to ask and exchange. Do not put your pride in trying to do it all by yourself, but in making things happen. You are the driver, even when you look for advice.

Tips:

  • If you can, join an incubator. No need to be a Bio-tech start-up or a dot-com company. We are part of Paris Pionnières –helping women launching a business: www.parispionnieres.org
  • Networking events: make great use of Viaduc, E-cademy, OpenBC to meet people. Out of all the members, you will find a couple that matches your view and expectations. With time passing by, you will get a good proficiency level in managing your expectations with these networking events. The authors of this column met Marketing Planet’s editor in one of these evenings: as you can see, you can never anticipate what will come out of such a meeting, but it can only be for the better!
  • More information and resources on MBTI: wikipedia.org/wiki/MBTI
  • A particularly interesting method for international managers, mixing personal preferences and cultural aspects: SPM profiling, from www.futuretobe.net/

Web sites and references:

  • «Good to Great», from Jim Collins. A very wise book on what makes the difference between performance and excellence in a company. Buy this book at Amazon.com
  • «Briser la dictature du temps», from Bruno Jarrosson. A disruptive approach to time, mixing philosophical and empirical approaches. A must read if you can read French.
  • «Imparfaits, libres et heureux», from Christophe André, to read whatever degree of self-esteem you have for yourself.
  • Networking sites: www.openBC.com, www.viaduc.com and www.ecademy.com
  • For women specifically: EPWN – www.Europeanpwn.net. A very good networking site for professional women.
  • For France-based readers of this column: if you are looking for training in the following fields:
  • Phone marketing techniques: www.Janusia.com
  • Sales tools and techniques: http://scorrdv.siteo.com/fr/. These 2 consultants clearly made a difference for us.

The introduction to this chronicle on ImFusio can be found right here: Introducing ImFusio