By Silvana Avinami
If you’re sitting there, fresh out of college or in the middle of a career transition, trying to figure out whether it’s better to get a job or start a business, I can assure you that you’re not alone.
I grant you that the idea of not having a boss to report to, of working on your own terms and schedule, and of wearing whatever you please to the office (or only your boxer shorts) would tempt the best of us. The question is, as an entrepreneur-in-the-making, would you be choosing immediate comfort over what you stand to learn from working within an organization, which in the long run could play to your advantage?
Based on my experience in the past decade of earning a living as both an entrepreneur and an employee, I believe that working as an employee can add to your entrepreneurial flare. The key to maxing out on your time as an employee is to be deliberate and aware of what you stand to gain.
Here are some clues:
1. Make mistakes on someone else’s tab. The sooner you accept that mistakes are part of your growth process, the sooner that you’ll stop wasting time dwelling on them and spend more time learning from them. The catch is that mistakes can be very costly and it’s through dealing with mistakes that you get better at handling them. As an employee you get a chance to sharpen your skills in handling mistakes. Hopefully you’ll also get a few basic ones out of the way – while someone else is paying for them. Which means that if you plan to one day have your own business, I suggest that you focus on learning from your mistakes so that you make them only once – on your employer’s tab and not on yours when you own your business.
2. Practice your skills. Unlike learning to be a surgeon, in the business world there isn’t such a thing as live sheep for you to practice your skills. In business, you’re either doing real deals, or you’re not. Working as an employee is the closest that you’ll come to practicing your skills on live matter without risking your own money.
3. FREE training. As a firm believer that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I still believe that one of the perks of working as an employee is the access to training that you get. For that reason, if you’re drawn to entrepreneurship, I suggest that you make sure that you choose to work with a company that offers their staff top-shelf training. And even if you’re not drawn to sales, I suggest that you get some formal training. The bottom line is that sales is what makes up the bottom-line of any business. Your ability to contribute to it is what in large part will drive the success of your future venture.
4. Learn tried & tested systems. If your employer knows what they’re doing, they’ll have sound systems and processes in place. From the templates that the HR department uses, to sales tracking systems, to customer service scripts, you’ll find that great businesses have a framework that allows them to follow well-designed processes. Because a systematic approach is key to delivering consistently without having to waste resources re-inventing the wheel, I suggest that you take a close look at your employer’s framework. Take the opportunity to learn – one day your own business will benefit from having systems in place.