3 Keys to Leaving Corporate America
It didn’t take the first time I tried. Not really.
After 20 years as a Fortune 500 executive and being “the first woman everything,” I achieved all that I set out to in my career. Yet I wasn’t happy. Turns out I was living someone else’s dream and not my own. It took a 2-year stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer about 15,000 miles (and several centuries) away in Papua New Guinea to learn that lesson.
Upon my return I embarked upon my first start-up — WebMD. It was a good one, at a wild time. Remember 1999? Dotcom heaven. I loved it until a management takeover when the founder parachuted out goldenly. Then it became just another politicized Big Business with little care for anybody outside its inner circle and anything other than quarterly earnings. It was also decidedly unfriendly towards women. It was no longer the sort of place someone with an entrepreneurial spirit could thrive.
So I exited. Departed. Ejected.
So I began my own small business helping other small business owners. I’ve become a Small Business Evangelist. My specialty is advocating for women entrepreneurs. We face a different kind of uneven playing field than we experience in corporate. Rather than corporate women competing for the same rarefied c-suite office, we have supportive women entrepreneurs who want to see each one of us succeed. We battle together against entrenched cultural biases that can make this tough. My mission is to help other women who find Corporate America not a good “fit” transition successfully into what IS a good fit.
Unfortunately, I Made Every Mistake in the Book
When I left Corporate America, I wish I’d known some key learnings before landing outside the Never-Neverland atmosphere of Big Business. First, it takes a lot longer than you think it will to start-up a business from a standstill. Moral: Begin thinking, planning, and executing before you press the eject button.
Second, the business you start will rarely be the one you end up with. Iterations — FAST iterations — are key. You’re not failing — you’re learning! It’s about customers, market research, responsiveness, and revisions. Your persistence and nimbleness are invaluable traits.
Third, “plan” is not a 4-letter word. It is difficult to plan too much, unless it paralyzes you. In my experience with business owners, the converse is more often true. According to most small business owners, “planning” :
● Takes too much time
● Is in my head!
● Won’t help my business
● Is too hard
● I don’t know where to start…
(and by all means fill-in your own blank)
3 Keys to Leaving Corporate America – Three Things You Can Do