Monday, June 2, 2008

Gaining Small Business Experience in Corporate America

Generally speaking, it is possible to customize your experience in Corporate America in order to better prepare yourself for small business. The catch, however, is that you likely have to be prepared to choose the road less traveled. Large companies often reward those who specialize, those who excel at internal politics, those that make stellar Powerpoint decks, those that attend the most meetings, etc. Consider how these pursuits fit with your long term goal. Are these getting you further down the path in the (at least) general direction of your goal? It is unlikely.

Make conscious choices to seek variety and experience in areas that will apply to your goals. Pay particular attention to areas in which you feel deficient. Generally speaking areas that will translate well for entrepreneurs are going to be operations, finance, and sales.

Seek experience on truly managing a business for profitability. Salespeople that know how to drive top-line without regard to profitability (I'm sure you don't know any of these) will fail in smaller environments. Finance people that lack an appreciation of the realities of operating a business will likely be hanged by peers in a small business (this is an optimistic outcome!). Operations people (engineers take heed!) that fail to appreciate the pitfalls of "efficiency at any cost" will drive a business into the ground.

These choices may not always be the most popular or rewarded in the short term, but they will strengthen your foundation for future success. I might even go so far as to suggest that if you choose the road less traveled, it will make all the difference!

No comments: