A lot of people start their careers in consulting to keep their options open. A surprising amount of us aspires to start our own businesses. The idea being that consulting in the meantime gives us some skills. And also some time to come up with the ‘perfect idea’.
As an aside, I question whether a perfect idea exists. In my experience, it’s more about doing something and improving through iteration once live. More than that it’s unlikely that your first idea will be ‘the one’. Much more likely that you’ll land on a far better idea when trying and succeeding, or failing, with the first. Or even the second.
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I question whether the work-work-work-life balance in consulting gives any time for ideas to flourish
If you quit consulting and surround yourself with entrepreneurs & small businesses – as is made possible by co-working – it’s amazing how much easier the ideas flow. Far less than that, it’s amazing what comes to you when you work less and spend more time exercising, pursuing hobbies or reading on the sofa. Food for thought but they’re two whole other feast-like blogs posts in themselves.
What I wanted to start with is a list of great things about starting a business and a list of things I miss about consulting (don’t take them for granted)!
Here you go.
Starting a business – the great bits
It might be a cliche, but it’s also true. Being your own boss is fantastic. It doesn’t mean you don’t work. Quite the opposite sometimes. But it does mean you work on your own terms. And you only do what you think is important (rather than stuff your boss or boss’s boss or client thinks is important but isn’t really).
Building a team is very rewarding (time-consuming to find the right people, but rewarding all the same). You have a chance to create the organisational culture, performance measurement, review and reward, working hours etc.
There’s nothing like knowing people find your product useful; turning an idea into reality. Building a business is hard. You get a lot of doors slammed in your face and a lot of feedback along the way. At the start, it’s a real slog. But there’s nothing like knowing – in our case – that 100s of people are interviewing for dream jobs they might not have discovered if not for our site. And it’s lovely to receive thank you emails too (we file them into a ‘feel good’ folder for rainy days).
Doing stuff warms the soul. Consulting – particularly at the pre-partner levels – can be really hands-off. Starting a business is totally hands on. Most importantly you have to be able to sell your product. What’s the point in having one if nobody buys it? Learning sales & marketing is about the most transferable skill in business.
Consulting – stuff you shouldn’t take for granted
Your colleagues. Starting a business is lonely. We started as a 2some just for that reason. I’d always recommend a business partner. You get to a better idea and have more fun along the way. Don’t underestimate the value of all those smart, fun colleagues you have at work. And how much you learn from them if you’re open to it.
The back room support is all giving in consulting and non-existent in your own business. A problem with your laptop? Take it to IT and swap it out. Late meeting? Take a cab home and stick it on expenses. Maybe even get travel to book it for you. Successful project? Go out for a nice team dinner. Paternity/Maternity leave – fully paid for many months. Everything’s on hand, in your swanky office to boot.
Running a business is a lot of admin – even if you outsource great chunks of it. Tax, VAT, PAYE, NIC, insurance, office space, servers, encryption, accounts & annual returns, management accounts, hiring, performance reviews, firing, operational processes, equity schemes…the list goes on. It’s not all glamourous. Lots of it can’t be outsourced. And it takes up a lot of time.
The variety in consulting can be hard to match (if you play your project selection right). Starting a business requires focus. Most businesses fail because their execution wasn’t good enough. Good execution is often about doing fewer things with more dedication. And this lack of variety can be dull. The temptation is to spread yourself too thin and most people – us included – learn that the hard way.
The grass is always greener on the other side. So make sure you appreciate the green stuff that’s right under your feet when you’re there. I hope you find that useful
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