It was only a matter of time: leaving the Corporate World to pursue my Entrepreneurial dreams. I knew from the beginning that I would be terribly dissatisfied with life in the former. The daily 9-5, working for the weekend complex does not sit well with me. Yet I felt this path necessary in order to afford me the opportunity to work independently: my student debt was too crippling to comfortably venture on my own. During my four years at Babson College, I interned three separate times with a staffing firm based in Massachusetts. Following my final internship, I was presented with the opportunity to relocate to their Charlotte, North Carolina office. In the interest of experiencing new and unfamiliar territory, I decided to move and build a life for myself. Therefore, after graduation I dove head first into adulthood and began working full time with ALKU in Charlotte, NC. Although I worked for the company as an intern, I was in for a shock. The magnitude of this ill-fitting, working relationship with Corporate America eluded me for quite some time.
Corporate America: A Personally Problematic System
Working for ‘The Man’ proved to be a far more difficult feat in comparison to adjustment of life in a new city. After six months in Charlotte, I was settled in and on the verge of building strong relationships with some amazing people. It was a challenging process but I manage to persist and make friends quickly. In contrast, after six months in my full time role, I still felt uncomfortable and frustrated. I was faced with the never-ending grapple for success in my work. The constant stress to hit weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly metrics felt to be an incessant and unrelenting sickness. Not to mention that the pressures of micro-management from top-down were overwhelming.
On a daily basis, it was expected of me to make at least 150 phone calls in an effort to gather strong leads for potential sales in the future. I sat through countless meetings, participated in weekly role-plays and experienced frequent one-on-one’s to ‘follow the process’ and build my book of business. Each day I returned home feeling exhausted and under attack. My skills were never enough and my work ethic always had room for improvement. I felt undervalued and unappreciated.
The cherry on top that soured my perspective of this lifestyle occurred in late 2020. As non-essential workers, we were sent home in March in response to the COVID pandemic. We began remote operations: a major stress relief for me. Unfortunately, the market for our consulting services were non-existent, sales were struggling, and I was anxious to hit the road again. Thus, I took the remote opportunity to embark on a cross-country road trip in August. For six weeks, I hopped around the West with my pup Sophie, visiting friends and family, and camping from my tent. I made sure that I had consistent access to electricity and WiFi, and maintained a normal working schedule throughout my journey.
But to ALKU, it was an unexcused vacation. They called me home, cut my trip short and I was faced with a thirty-three hour drive to be completed in two days’ time. There was no compromise. I was upset to say the least. “Why does it matter where I am working?” I wondered for the majority of the journey back to Charlotte. “As long as I am completing my work and doing well (which I was), shouldn’t I be okay to work from anywhere?” To me, this was a total display of power, stemming from a need to control. It was increasingly apparent to me that this job was not a good fit, and for my mental health and freedom, I needed to leave ASAP. Of course, I can be a bit dramatic.
*Disclaimer: It Ain’t All That Bad
My goal in writing this is not to bash my former employer. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work for a growing company and gain tremendous knowledge of the overall Business to Business Sales process. I learned valuable life and career lessons from ALKU and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work for them. They invest a lot of time and effort in their employees, and it shows in the company’s rapid expansion. Not to mention their financial rewards are helpful and encouraging. ALKU and I were just not meant for each other, and that’s quite alright. Instead, the purpose for this piece is to provide my perspective of the American Corporate working environment and instill a sense of hope in those who strive to achieve more in life than a large, weekly paycheck.
I admittedly am not a good fit for working a corporate job. I am a leader, am outspoken and have a tendency to challenge authority. My experience with ALKU is that they want employees who will follow their vision: not dreamers whose goals are to build their own paths. This piece is meant for the dreamers. Those who aspire for greatness and independence. The people who need that friendly nudge to embark on their own personal journeys. I experienced more of a shove than a nudge, but it was necessary nonetheless.
Transformation to [Social] Entrepreneurship
Knowing that my time with ALKU was nearing its end, I proactively set the building blocks for the empire that I hope to create. Since finishing my Senior year at Babson, my goal was to start my own consulting firm that provides Social Impact companies with business development assistance. Moving to a rapidly growing city, I knew that there would be ample opportunity to achieve my goal. I remained optimistic and diligent. I viewed every occurrence as an opportunity to progress, and spoke my aspirations in conversation with every new person I encountered. By networking with the Babson and Charlotte, NC communities, and maintaining a strong work ethic, I set myself up for a relatively smooth transition from the Corporate World to the Entrepreneurial Environment.
Now, I am the Owner of Global Grassroots Consulting and am a Sales Associate for the fellow Babson Alum organization, Moving Company Media. Through Global Grassroots Consulting, I currently work with two Social Impact companies to provide Business Development consulting services. I hope to use these working relationships to key in on a specific set of service offerings and build a strong foundation for my organization.
My ultimate goal is to create multiple streams of revenue to independently support myself. My sales role with Moving Company Media affords me this opportunity through financial support while I build my own Entrepreneurial path. I feel that I am making great strides towards achieving my goals and in pursuing my dreams. Thank you Moving Company Media for the opportunity! These successes all came about from working hard, staying focused, maintaining relationships and remaining open to new opportunities.
Entrepreneurship Comes with its Own Problems
It is a fact of modern-day society that money is necessary for survival. Unfortunately for me and many other rookie Entrepreneurs, “progress” does not directly translate into the almighty dollar. However, I am lucky in the fact that there is an improved support system in place for jobless Americans during these Pandemic times. These temporary weekly allowances work in its intended purpose to provide me with economic relief as I transition into a new chapter of my Career. Had my career change occurred outside of COVID times, I may be in a more stressful state of mind as the Unemployment checks proved not to be as fruitful.
Instead of worrying about my current economic status, I am left to worry about the daily tasks of an Entrepreneur and the future of my professional career. The two biggest struggles I currently face are Time and Stress Management. I find maintaining multiple streams of revenue to be rewarding, yet challenging. I have endless tasks to complete and limited time to do so. I deal with thoughts of self-doubt and find myself overanalyzing my work and my interactions.
According to Jack Krier in his piece, “6 Common Struggles in Your First Year as an Entrepreneur”, my current struggles are of the six that he identifies as common among young Entrepreneurs. As Krier would agree, I find myself questioning my “decisions, the stage of [my] route, and [my] business’ potential”. And through this questioning, I overanalyze the progress that I am making, which in turn leads to more self-doubt. Entrepreneurship is a constant struggle from onset, but I prefer this over the struggle of day-to-do life in the Corporate World.
Final Thoughts: Hope for a Better Tomorrow
No matter the struggle, I promise to persevere. As Krier mentions, the best remedy for self-doubt and overanalyzing is to go “with the flow”, focus “on the essentials”, and “strive for progress – not perfection”. Through daily meditation and maintaining a mindful state, I am able to live in the present and stay the course. I take every compliment and accomplishment – no matter how small – as an achievement for progress’ sake. I accept my limitations, reject self-doubt and remain optimistic for a better tomorrow – I still have yet to perfect this practice, but will I ever?
For my fellow Entrepreneurs who hope to leave the Corporate World, you can do this! Trust your own process and stay the course. There is no perfect opportunity to start your Entrepreneur journey. Keep your eyes open. A good opportunity will always present itself and a good Entrepreneur will be able to recognize it and make the most. Do not wait until the ‘time is right’. Act now! Carpe Diem!!
Entrepreneurship Update: 4 Months Later (July 20, 2021)
It has been four months since my blog post on my transition from Corporate World to Entrepreneurship, yet so much has changed in such little time. In the month of March, I worked an independent sales gig that transitioned from an unpaid, commission-based role, to a position that earned me a livable wage. Additionally, I worked to build my brand, Global Grassroots Consulting, through my relationship with InnerCity Weightlifting. I was providing them with work pro-bono, in the hopes that I may earn a consulting wage in the future. In that time, I was making progress and affording the necessities for survival. Funny thing is, Life has a way of shaking things up.
In April, I learned that a consulting position with ICW was not feasible, and in June, the sales position that earned me a livable wage, dissolved. Ouch. “Back to square one”, I thought at the time. Oh how wrong I was. I soon realized that the saying is true: when one door closes, another one opens. From my working relationship with ICW, I learned valuable career lessons, I gained an incredible referral and I met my first paying customer for Global Grassroots Consulting. As for the sales role, my hard work and determination afforded me the ability to continue working with the same company (OnDemand Storage), but at a different capacity. Now, I am writing blogs for ODS, acquiring skills involving Search Engine Optimization, and am earning a decent wage. In addition, my personal blogging afforded me a new client for which I am helping to enhance their online content.
Entrepreneurship is about being adaptable. If you told me four months ago when I first wrote this blog post, that most of my income would now be from my writing as opposed to sales, I would have thought you to be insane! Funny thing is, I actually find content creation (i.e. writing, blogging, website editing, etc.) to be more exciting and fulfilling, than working in sales. As time progresses, I find myself to be much more introverted. Could outreach is not as exciting for me as it once was a couple of years back.
Advice: 6 Months into My Entrepreneur Journey
Do not give up. Do not fold. Continue pressing forward. Even though my financial wellbeing is not in the best shape and I must continue to live a frugal lifestyle, I am much happier being in control of my own destiny. I need not answer to one singular person. I am following my dreams and pursuing my passions. I am genuinely interested in my work and am excited to awake in the morning to get the day started. Compared to my previous job where I dreaded the impending mornings and getting out of bed, I am much happier. Don’t you want the same for yourself? Is that not the goal for every budding entrepreneur?
Be flexible. Stay adaptable. Continue to focus on the progress that you are making, as opposed to your failures. With every failure comes knowledge that will lead you to success. My work changed drastically just over the course of 3-4 months. Had I folded the towel after my first ‘failure’, I would be back to working a 9-5 job and living a dissatisfactory lifestyle. I truly believe that with a positive mindset, ambition and the willingness to persevere, anything can and will be accomplished. I may not be making much money now, but I believe in my own ability to earn a sustainable income in the future.
In my blog post, "Will You Be the Shepherd, Or the Sheep?", I pose the following question. "In this moment, if I could focus my time and energy on one thing for the rest of my life, what would it be?" Take actionable steps towards achieving your answer to this question, today. In doing this, you will be a successful entrepreneur.
Keep pushing forward! Believe in yourself. I believe in you. So what are you waiting for? Get to it! Chase your dreams. The only thing holding you back is you.
© 2021 Ian Shepardson