One of the most popular questions people ask business owners is “how can I start my own business?”
And it’s a good question because there isn’t a textbook answer to this.
One of my previous blog posts is about the 52 things I have learnt in my first year in business.
Point 16 is: “the knowledge and experience from your previous jobs can help your business to succeed”.
I am a big believer in the value of full-time employment, whether you want to start a business or not.
Some people might be surprised to hear that coming from me, as I run my own business now.
But if it wasn’t for my years of experience in the build-up to it, it would have been a very different story.
The Backstory of My First Failed Business
Even though I never set out to be self-employed, I still tried it out during the early days of my career.
After about a year in my first post-uni job, I wondered whether I should start my own business.
I didn’t get a degree in Sports Management and then a Masters in International Marketing Management for nothing. I wanted to combine the two for a career in sports marketing.
So I tried it out, by starting a one-man digital sports marketing company.
After investing time and money into getting a design and website built, I talked to different business owners who were having trouble with their website’s visibility.
And I got to work.
It was then that I realised I was way out of my depth.
I looked at various websites, tried to help out wherever I could and I realised I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to do much about it.
So I had to stop that business and consequently continued working in a full-time job.
For another 8 years.
And then in 2016, I started my business.
Some might see it as time wasted. I could have tried again with a different business or kept going with my first business.
“Imagine how far you would have come if you had a business for 8 years instead of working at a job during that time instead.”
But I actually received much more than you might think during that time. Working full-time gives you the type of environment and experience that can prove to be invaluable.
Below, I’ve listed the benefits of getting a job first before starting your own business.
You Learn from People Who Are Smarter Than You
One of the keys to success is to be around people who are smarter than you.
But if you are running your own business, chances are that you are on your own.
Sure, you can read, do courses and perhaps attend conferences to learn from other people. But it’s not the same as physically working alongside other people.
And that’s a huge benefit when working with other people under one roof.
Jim Rohn’s famous quote: “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” is very true, especially as you spend a lot of time at your workplace.
I can definitely appreciate the value of being around people who are smarter than me (and don’t be cocky, there will always be someone who is better than you at your work).
It challenges your way of thinking and working.
Find Out Whether You Are in the Right Job Field & Industry
Imagine if you had studied or worked for many years in one industry, only to find that it’s not the right one for you.
And I’m talking about those who are both employed and self-employed.
If you are working in a job, you will be able to get a deep understanding of what it’s like to work in your field (e.g. lawyer, doctor, engineer) and the industry (environmental law, paediatrician, electrical engineer) because of the environment that you are in.
You expose yourself to a variety of scenarios and you will learn from other like-minded people too (seeing as you are surrounded by the same people under one roof, remember?)
This is a good test to see whether you are in the right type of field.
And even if you enjoy your position (e.g. lawyer), but want to work in a different industry (environmental law instead of criminal law), your job can quickly tell you whether you are right for the industry too.
But if You Are Not in the Right Field, Can You Take Advantage of it?
I’ve always thought that I was going to work in the sports marketing industry.
Call it what you want, but it wasn’t meant to be, as I re-routed to a different field.
I had no intention of working in the field of digital marketing. So when I started working at a local company, helping them run their website, I found myself in a whole new world of possibility.
As I gradually got myself into it, I couldn’t get out. It’s such a fascinating industry.
Then it got more even more interesting when other areas started to come in like WordPress, Google Analytics and social media.
Some people are so set on working in a specific area, that they deem it as a failure if they don’t end up there.
I thought the same, but I was wrong.
Instead, I found myself working in a field that I thoroughly love, it’s growing and it’s always evolving.
So before you decide to disregard a field that you never wanted to work in, keep an open mind as you never know what you might find along the way in your journey.
Learn More About Yourself
This is similar to the above point about working in the right industry, but there are also other areas that you could learn about yourself.
You’d be surprised on how little you know about yourself until you actually put yourself in a situation where you are forced to take action.
I guess this is the same concept for those want to “find themselves”.
Perhaps there is an element of that, but working in a job is a good opportunity to learn more about yourself.
What are you good at and not good at?
What do you like and not like?
What’s your long-term goal and how will you get there?
What kind of working style suits you?
And speaking of working style…
Understand What Kind of Working Style Suits You Best
If you are in a job where you end up being a manager, you could soon find out what working style suits you and your team.
Maybe being hands-on is what you prefer.
Or perhaps you would like your team to take responsibility while you oversee and run the ship.
You might not know until you are in it.
A lot of people like the idea of being a CEO, the status that comes with it, being in charge of a company and overseeing everything.
But this could also mean that you don’t get your hands dirty with the actual work that you enjoy.
A real-life example is when Rand Fishkin, the co-founder of Moz, decided to step down as a CEO of his previous company that he owned because he believed he was not suited for “organizational development, HR, conflict resolution, process building, and morale”.
And it also took him away from doing what he loved – SEO.
So he knew it didn’t suit him, stepped down as CEO and gave the role to someone who was more suited to the role.
A win-win for everybody.
But how do you know what you want and what suits you without even trying it?
Maybe you need to find out at your existing/upcoming job and see what working style suits you.
Learn How Your Employers Run Their Own Business
If you work in a small company, where you may work side-by-side with the founder/s of the business, you might have access to a deeper insight into how a business is run than most people.
Sure, it might sound more appealing to work for a popular, well-known brand.
If you happen to work for a larger corporation, you will also have the experience of working alongside your manager, again, someone you can learn from.
If you are lucky enough to work in an open and transparent environment, you may also have access to a wider team of people and senior management.
And as mentioned earlier, you will be able to better understand the different management techniques there are around, what kind of working style you prefer and better understand what interests you, etc.
Working Abroad Is Unlike Any Other Experience
As well as working across the UK, I was also lucky enough to work abroad, including a full-time digital marketing job in Berlin for a year.
I can honestly say that working abroad is a unique experience, which can’t be bought or learnt.
You might have a job that allows you to travel abroad.
But it’s not the same as living abroad for a long period of time.
You learn so much about working in a different working environment – different languages, bureaucracy, lifestyle and culture.
After one year of working in Germany in online marketing, you don’t just get valuable work experience, but also valuable life experiences.
And that can benefit you in the long-run without you even knowing it.
Are You Sure You Have What it Takes to be Self-Employed?
There is a common misconception that running your own business is a glamorous lifestyle, where you have all the time in the world to do anything you want, while the money starts rolling in.
It’s hard to not to see all the showing off on social media, with the assumption that you can achieve freedom and money with entrepreneurship.
Working for yourself can be a long, hard and lonely game.
It is full of emotions, with highs and lows.
Unless you have the right people or community around you, you are on your own.
Working in full-time employment has its own challenges but most companies will try to help find a solution for you.
Not everybody has what it takes to be a business owner, and that’s okay.
But it’s important that you know this as early as possible. And that’s why it’s always a good idea to find out what it would feel like to be a business owner.
Surround yourself with the right people.
Soak in knowledge from other entrepreneurs (successful or not) and learn from their experience.
Listen to podcasts, watch some educational videos and read books on the topic of running a business.
You need to know what you are getting yourself into before it’s too late.
A Job is a Safe Environment to Test Your Knowledge
A huge benefit to working full-time is that you can test what you have learnt in a safe environment.
If you are self-employed, you won’t always have a leg to stand on if you want to be risky or adventurous.
But you can try to experiment at a job.
Now, this is not an excuse for you to use up a company’s time for your own personal benefit.
You’ve got a job. Get it done!
But you can take advantage of your job by testing your knowledge and experience.
Just imagine that the company you are working for is your client.
Would you be able to deliver and meet their expectations?
Can you offer solutions like a client would require?
Would you be able to meet the deadlines set?
Find out if you are capable at your job.
Some people might argue that you can still learn from everything that I have mentioned while running a business.
And that is true.
But not all of us can drop everything and start a business tomorrow.
It could be because of commitments, family reasons, financial implications, etc.
At the same time, you need to make sure that starting a business is right for you.
And funnily enough, a job can help you with that.
If you find that you still want to start a business, then that’s great.
If you find that you don’t want to start a business and want to be in full-time employment, guess what? That’s great too.
But it’s up to you to make the initial step, regardless of the path you choose.
Don’t you agree? Or do you think it’s a waste of time to get a job, and you should start a business straight away instead?
Comment below and let me know what you think.
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