Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Alan’s weekly Forbes column.
Last July, I wrote an article that has been my most widely read and shared Forbes column to date. It is titled "Kiss Your Boss Goodbye. It’s Time To Be An Entrepreneur."
Legions of people have reached out to me since, expressing hopes, fears, and telling me about the entrepreneurial plans they would like to pursue. Some told me they’ve already taken the leap away from corporate positions to pursue the business ideas that are their real passion. Despite the challenges, most were glad — far and away — they had become entrepreneurs.
A letter I received this past week, however, set me completely back on my heels. Here’s what someone told me:
I know you don’t have any idea who I am. I’m sure you meet tons of people and many people are vying to talk to you. I just wanted to say “thank you.” I live in Utah and I’m starting a business right now. I read your article “Kiss Your Boss Goodbye. It’s Time to be an Entrepreneur.” I was very encouraged to realize I was doing exactly what your article said to do. As I was developing a plan, my brother-in-law told me about your regional “Concept to Company” business competition for mobile apps, so I entered. I was fortunate enough to take runner-up and I was able to speak at the Crowd Pitch segment of the ensuing Pushbutton Summit. I am married. I have 3 kids. And I am going to school full time. I don’t have much time, I’m sure you know. But that contest was really good for me. The resources were amazing, to be sure, but I am really grateful for all of the exposure and connections that one step made for me. It opened so many doors that I never imagined would be open for me. I wanted to tell you thank you for that. Your team is really great and was more than helpful to me, and continues to help me now. I know you’ve been successful, and I’m amazed at how much you give back. Thank you again and happy new year!
What a letter! It certainly brightened my New Year’s Day. I was compelled to ask this entrepreneur for some more details about the process of reaching his decision to start a new venture. Here’s what he said:
"I work for a company that takes advantage of its employees. The owners and managers are arrogant and greedy. Every time something goes wrong, they find an employee to blame it on, and they take full credit for everything that goes right.
"As an example, the area I work for has experienced extreme changes in the regulations that govern the work I do. The owners had no idea the change was coming or what it would mean for our work. I got in touch with all the necessary people to find out what I had to do to get certified and registered. I worked with our client carefully to be sure they knew about the changes, and then we implemented a new system the client and I had come up with to cover the change.
"We had issues with the new system, as you usually do. We needed a way to get the required information back to our client in an efficient way. I made some adjustments to the system on our end and determined that if I could get a tablet computer, I could make the adjustments. I contacted the CEO and told him the plan. He was not supportive — gave me many excuses of why he didn’t believe it would work, but in the end, he sent what I needed.
"The system worked great and our client has been very pleased with the solution. We had a national company meeting not long after this happened. In the meeting, the CEO asked me how the new system was working. I told him it was working out great and that our client is very happy. He then proceeded to tell me (and the entire company) how he had known the system would be great, which was why he had gotten behind the plan and had made it possible.
"Sadly, this is business as usual for this organization. Most of the employees have been even less successful in getting support than I have been. So I started thinking about how the system could become more efficient and simplified still. I approached the CEO about it. He blew me off. I don’t think he believed I could get it done.
"I came to find out our client had been asking for changes similar to the ones I had put in place, and my company was blowing off the customer as well. Then I entered a regional competition for new business. I took runner-up; I received some important resources and most importantly of all, I have made important connections that helped to push my new business to the position it’s in now.
"The more I thought about my situation, the more I realized I could create and run a viable business myself. Following the steps in the article, I put together a plan and started doing research about the market and possible competition. As this set of events has come together, I have been contacted by one of the largest corporations in the world and by several state agencies. They want to see what I have, and they want my product in hand as soon as it’s ready.
"I haven’t launched yet, but I am getting close. The closer I get, the more customer interest I’m getting. I am going to launch very soon, and as the time gets closer I am more and more excited about my decision to “Fire my boss.” I know it’s going to be a long and hard road, but I am ready to fight. I know that as long as I do what I say, and as long as I keep the customers and my own employees first in my mind, I will make it."
A very inspiring story. If I were a betting person, I’d take every chance on this emerging entrepreneur. He knows the path will be filled with hard work, but he is taking the steps and making the preparations to ensure he has a viable product, and he has found customers in advance who are willing to buy his product for the price that he needs. He is thinking about his customers first, his future employees second, and is ensuring that he creates a company culture that will serve his employees and customers well.
Are you ready? Is 2013 the year you will take the same challenge and tell your own boss goodbye? If statistics hold there will be 500,000 new businesses launched in the U.S. every month of this year. If you plan to start a business or you are looking for career options to allow you to become your own boss, please read my article again and be sure you are well prepared in taking each of the steps I’ve described.
There are many resources emerging. In fact, I will shortly provide more details on the national program for Grow America's business competitions (and free resources for entrepreneurs). Until then — happy reading and happy planning. Perhaps this is the year you will become an entrepreneur.
Alan E. Hall is a co-founding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is chairman of the Utah Technology Council.
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