Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dipping your Toe in the Water

One of the difficulties in considering small business or entrepreneurial ventures from within Corporate America is often the lack of appreciation for a day in the life of small business. Frequently, the world you know in Corporate America is something like: drive to large parking lot, enter building with ubiquitous badge on an acronym-branded lanyard, read email, attend meetings, scavenge for lunch between meetings either in cafeteria or from lunch meeting leftover pizza, do a bit of work, have some conference calls, read email, review tomorrow's meetings, and go home with laptop to do work you didn't have time for between meetings.

"Surely," you think, "the life of an entrepreneur must be different. But how?" I'm not suggesting that it's rocket science or even that it's better, but it is unequivocally different. The best way to learn if the change is for the better for you is to find a way to give it a trial and see first-hand.

I was fortunate to make this seemingly odd request of a friend in Richmond and spent two days with him at his small manufacturing and retail business. My offer for his time to do this was to identify some small area in which I could assist him during those two days and with a bit of follow-up. So, for two days I was part puppy and part sounding board. As for the mini-project, I gathered some data while there, did some high-level analysis (quantitative and qualitative), and made a couple follow-up phone calls before presenting a recommendation back to the owner.

It was a minimal investment and hugely helpful. I had a real chance to get a taste of what "normal" days in small business present. A day full of meetings it is not! You also learn a lot about the types of people with whom you will interact all day long.

Think about the cost and the payoff here. Particularly, if you are able to discover that you don't care for the small taste that you get. And if you do like it, it will help accelerate you on the journey.

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