How I Left Corporate – Part I

So…admittedly I haven’t been posting my personal exploits to our blog that much this year.  It hasn’t been for lack of wanting to, it’s just been because I’ve been trying to manage a company that seems to have a mind/life of it’s own at times.

Needless to say, this month I had some time to ponder some things.  Like the fact that my 4 year anniversary from departing Corporate America will be here in a matter of weeks!  So with that said, I figured I would end 2015 with a 3 day blitzkrieg of blog post related to the subject.  If you’ve ever thought about leaving the friendly confines of a gig to strike out on your own, but didn’t know “how” to do it, these post will share how I went about it.

What sparked the desire to leave?
Over the course of my 13 year corporate career, I believe that I had a nice run. I worked at four well respected employers, held several positions, made decent career progression and money to boot. I wasn’t a “superstar” when it came to politics, but I could hold my own and I understood most of the intricacies of the game.

Downtown! Where is Macklemore?

Downtown! Where is Macklemore?

So why was I considering leaving?  Probably for many of the same reasons that you may have contemplated it.  But when it came down to pinning a “single” reason, I’d have to say it centered around progression.  I don’t believe in “glass ceilings” as I think that you can get around that to a certain extent (e.g. switch employers).  But I do believe that those in the Ivory Tower will only let you hold the roles that they think you are fit for.

How many times have you seen a senior level manager or even a C Suite executive be mentioned in an announcement where it states they are “leaving to pursue other interest” or something to that effect?  Really?  This person makes like $500K+ and they are leaving?  Or did you really mean 1) you’re firing them, 2) they don’t want to go along with the plan or 3) their vision for themselves doesn’t line up with yours so they are out of here?

Needless to say, if I stayed around I think I had the credentials and smarts to make it to upper management.  But what if I wanted to run things?  Would they let me?  What if I wanted to make a million dollars?  Would they pay me that?  While the answers to those questions could have all been yes, there was one way that I could give myself a better probability of those things occurring…striking out on my own.

How I stumbled upon my roadmap
Once I made the decision to leave, I had to come up with a way to make it all happen.  I mean, I like to take risks in life, but I like for them to be calculated.  You know, the ones with sizable upside and minimal downside?  So walking into the bosses office, kicking my feet up on their desk and telling them I quit without having a backup plan was not in my game plan.

The book that gave me my entrepreneurial keys.

The book that gave me my entrepreneurial keys.

One day I was checking out at my neighborhood grocery store.  While standing in line I came across the book shown above.  Now, I was not necessarily interested in working less and earning more, but the title caught my attention.  Needless to say the book’s author, Jeff Cohen, outlined a plan for transitioning from the working a gig life to working for ones self.  So with that, I studied what the book had to offer and then moved towards building the plan.

Creating the backup plan
My plan to leave was actually broken down into the following three phases:

  • Building the business part time
  • Creating a fallback position within corporate
  • Preparing to leave once when all of the pieces were aligned

The plan began in late 2005 and culminated with my resignation in January of 2012.  So as you can see, it took almost 7 years for it to “fall into place” so to speak.  In the next post I will elaborate on each of those phases and exactly how I prepared to leave (e.g. financial, health care, etc).