Most professionals have at least one concrete idea about how their industry could work better. The world is full of imperfect systems — the American healthcare system is clearly one of them — and the people who work in them day in and day out for years begin to see opportunities for improvement.
The trouble is, by the time these insights appear people are pretty far along their career paths. It’s daunting to leave the stability you’ve become accustomed to for the risky life of the entrepreneur. But without someone like you with deep industry knowledge and an eye for change, your field will never move forward.
One of my passions is to free and amplify talent locked in bureaucratic systems because I felt trapped for so much of my corporate career. Here are some of the common places people transitioning from the workforce to entrepreneurship tend to get stuck — and some tips for finding freedom.
Professionals may hold on to a great business idea for years without acting on it because they can’t identify the first step. There’s no way for them to implement their idea in their current position and they would need something concrete to transition to if they were going to leave their job.
Often, the first step is smaller than you think. It can be as simple as informal conversations. I have a long list of people in the healthcare field who I think are very smart and who I like to check in with regularly. These chats have led to several successful businesses.
Discussing your idea with your former colleagues, customers, mentors and friends can help you fine-tune it and start to visualize putting it into action. It may also lead to partners or relationships critical to getting the idea off the ground.
If you’re worried about sharing the full extent of your idea too early, you can focus on the problem you’re solving. If others experience the same problem you do, you’re probably on to something. Listening to how others articulate the problem will get you to an even better solution.
When you come from the corporate world, it’s hard to imagine life without HR, IT and other acronyms of supporting cast helping you focus on your job. New entrepreneurs often assume they’d have to build all of this infrastructure themselves; calculating the cost stops them in their tracks.
The business world is more flexible than it used to be. Starting out with freelance or fractional members of your team can give you some runway.
Another route is to find a partner who will provide the infrastructure you need. Your company could launch as a division or subsidiary of another company. Or an investor or co-founder could share resources with you from another project.
I really wouldn’t advise taking on the nuts and bolts of running a business unless you have to or really want to. Part of my free-and-amplify philosophy is making sure the entrepreneur isn’t bogged down with minutia and can focus on the big picture in order to get the company on the right trajectory from the jump.
Be down to scale up
This is the hardest part. Many entrepreneurs can imagine the first steps of a new business and land a few clients. They may even put together a small team. But getting from 5 people to 50, that’s where you really start to reap rewards, and for most people, it’s not obvious how to do it.
Once your business is up and running, I recommend joining groups of other entrepreneurs and talking to them specifically about scale. Did they hire a sales team? Form strategic partnerships? What got them to the next level? Hearing others’ stories will help you see your own unfold.
Part of achieving scale is overcoming a mental block as well. When you own a business, you live with a certain undercurrent of anxiety. Don’t let that keep you from dreaming big. Write down where you want to go and the steps it would take to get there even if it seems too bold and daring as you’re doing it. Run the plan by others in your circle to pull yourself out of your emotions and get perspective on the opportunity that exists for you.
Goliath got you down
Starting a business in a field like healthcare that’s dominated by giants can be particularly intimidating. Assuming you’ve already worked at one of those giants, think about how inflexible and unresponsive they are to market forces. You can cover a lot of ground before they take notice.
Also remember that you have something incredibly rare and valuable: years of experience that has led you to imagine a better system. Since 99.9 percent of people don’t understand your industry in the detailed way you do, they have no way of seeing the opportunity you see. That’s a competitive advantage.
It’s also a calling. If you don’t implement that idea, no one will. Can you live with that?