I jumped with a parachute.
I worked for a great bank and worked my way up to a Vice President role providing advice and services to some of the largest companies in the U.S. After nearly 10 years in the commercial banking business, I wanted to join my wife in growing our family business, UI Global Brands. Yes, I left a great corporate career, to sell bras, panties, and body wash! And I haven't looked back. Here's 3 lessons I learned:
1. I Didn't Know As Much As I Thought I Did
I thought that I could join my wife at the office and hit the ground running day one. After all, I had worked lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends supporting the business while I was working my full time career. I soon learned that there was so much more to running a business and because we were growing and adding customers, I had to check my pride right away. I became our HR guru (in training), and I was tasked with finding people who could support our vision. I also had one month to find a new warehouse for our products. I learned a lot from my mistakes, and being humble made the transition easier.
2. I Knew More Than I Thought I Did
When I left corporate, I had no idea we would launch 2 new apparel collections and a hair care line, and we were also in the midst of investor negotiations. All of a sudden, I was able to draw on 12 years of experience advising large and medium sized companies and analyzing their financial and operational strategies. It was exhilarating. I was on the other side of the table, and over the years I had met a lot of great people who taught me about their businesses. Armed with an M.A. in Economics and an undergraduate degree in Finance, I was able to tackle challenges in a strategic way. When I didn't know the answers, and that was often, I was able to call my friends and contacts for advice, which taught me a third lesson.
3. I Need People
When we were preparing to launch a haircare line, I called an executive at a major retail chain and asked questions about their strategy and how I should look at the numbers. I also called the CEO of a company that supplies that retailer and learned about the good and the bad in their experience.
When a shipment from overseas came in damaged, I called the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation for advice. Within an hour he had me on the phone with his logistics manager and I understood what we could do differently in the future to avoid this problem, and if it happens again, how to insure against the risk.
When I feel like things aren't going as planned or just not moving as quickly as I would like, I am able to walk next door to my wife's office, have a healthy and uplifting conversation, get fired up, and keep going.
I learned a lot in my first year out of corporate America. I hope these lessons help you in some way.
"The Art and Science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge." - Thomas Berger