Large-scale life changes were necessary to make the shift from a white-shoe Wall Street firm to the almost complete freedom of entrepreneurship.
The transition from a corporate career on Wall Street to entrepreneurship requires significant life adjustments. The move involves shifting from a structured corporate environment to the independence of entrepreneurship. Four universal lessons can be learned from this transition: dealing with a lack of immediate feedback, setting and sticking to schedules, recognizing that customer acquisition is challenging, and understanding there are diverse ways to earn a living outside the corporate world.
Here are four valuable lessons I learned during this transition that can be universally applied to anyone contemplating the leap from employee to entrepreneur:
Embrace the Lack of Immediate Feedback
Adapting to the lack of immediate feedback posed a significant personal challenge. Throughout our educational and professional journeys, we are accustomed to receiving continuous short-term feedback, be it from our teachers or bosses. This feedback loop makes it easy to identify mistakes and areas for improvement. However, entrepreneurship does not provide this constant feedback mechanism. In this realm, no one is readily available to point out errors unless you actively seek guidance from those capable of offering it.
To tackle this issue, I proactively sought out mentors early on, specifically those who had excelled in my industry. Additionally, I cultivated the practice of testing my ideas and collecting input from both existing and potential customers. Essentially, customers become the de facto “supervisors” for entrepreneurs, making regular engagement with them crucial.
Establish Ambitious Schedules and Stick to Them
When you’re on your own, your schedule can quickly become unruly. The newfound freedom can be both liberating and intimidating, especially if you’re coming from a structured, hierarchical environment.
Building a business is an arduous endeavor, even if no one is imposing deadlines on you. In reality, these deadlines exist because the market is continually shifting, customers are demanding, and competitors are making their moves. It’s vital to establish a scheduling system that helps you stay on track. I personally prefer using Asana, but there are various scheduling tools available to ensure you remain disciplined.
Customer Acquisition Is a Challenge
A common misconception among new entrepreneurs is the belief that creating an exceptional product is sufficient to attract users. The notion that “If you build it, they will come” is often the guiding philosophy. However, entrepreneurship does not mirror the plot of the movie “Field of Dreams,” and you are likely not the film’s protagonist, Kevin Costner.
Acquiring customers initially is invariably more challenging than anticipated. A good rule of thumb for estimating customer acquisition cost (CAC) is to multiply the industry leader’s CAC (annual sales and marketing expenditure divided by the number of new customers acquired each year) by five. This might seem high, but no one knows about your company, and frankly, no one cares until you give them a reason to. Industry leaders have a low CAC because they’ve already established a brand, with much of their new business stemming from returning customers or word of mouth, which incurs a CAC of $0.
Numerous Opportunities for Earning a Living
In the financial industry, your career path is clearly defined from day one. The focus is primarily on your specific role within the financial machine, and exposure to various income-generating methods across other industries is limited. Even as an investor, you remain somewhat detached, lacking hands-on operational experience.
However, once I permitted myself to explore, I encountered numerous opportunities for building a stable income. While it may entail cost-cutting for a period during the development of your idea, there are countless niches and avenues for enterprising individuals to explore. The world is vast, and despite any current sense of limitation, numerous pathways exist for making your mark.