Life as an entrepreneur versus a career in the city
Until last August, I had spent 14 years at one of the most prestigious investment banks in the world. For most of my time there, I was so career focused, that a lot of the people around me thought I was completely brainwashed and that I would never leave. So it came as a surprise to many when I handed in my notice. Especially as I wasn’t leaving to join a competitor but I was leaving to earn no salary and was leaving to start a FinTech called Sprive.
It’s now nearly been a year since I left and we’ve finally are at a place where our start-up can onboard actual users. It’s been an interesting journey and I thought it would be interesting to share with you my top 10 observations on how life as a start-up entrepreneur differs to my previous life in the corporate world.
Not getting paid – Not having that salary coming in every month makes you think twice about what you spend your money on. Every month you’re eating into your life savings and that’s not fun. Even when I order a takeaway, I feel a tinge of guilt, whereas before I was in a fortunate place where I could think less about money.
It’s lonely – in the corporate world, you’ve spent years building a network, your diary is always back to back, and you’re talking to people from around the world every day. There’s also the social banter with colleagues who over time have become almost family. As an entrepreneur, your world suddenly gets smaller and you’re almost working from scratch to build a team and new network to help you make your start-up a success.
The corporate directory – it’s something I took for granted when I had my city job. Whenever I found myself stuck, the person that could help me was only a call or two away. There was a plethora of talent and answers to my questions could be found quickly which helped move things forward at lightening pace. As a first time entrepreneur, I started with no directory. Whether I need to find investors, help with marketing, design, branding, get legal or tax advice, I had to spend days if not weeks trying to find the right person to help me.
Lack of funds – working for a corporate, I spent most of my time thinking about how I could get the best outcome for the company. However, it’s a lot easier to do that when you’re not significantly hamstrung by a lack of funds. UK is an expensive place to do business and especially if you decide the business you’re going to launch is a FinTech. I’ve spent days and days finding creative ways to do get things done for free and for as little money as possible.
Accountability – life in the corporate world, by definition means in some shape or form you have someone, if not multiple people who you report into. They are there to make sure you are accountable for delivering and that you’re’ meeting set deadlines. As an entrepreneur, you’re not accountable to anyone which means you to have self-drive in buckets otherwise your start-up is not going anywhere.
Planning ahead – before my role was relatively well defined and so it was pretty clear what my responsibilities were. I knew directionally the goals of my department and what were my priority tasks to deliver. There was always plenty of business plans, strategy documents and project plans that were continually being maintained and being worked on by an army of people. In the entrepreneur world, things are constantly changing. At first, we started with detailed project plans, but found that priorities and goals were changing so often that we couldn’t manage things in the same way we were used to doing.
Working on things you’re not good at – I had spent 14 years developing my skillset and whilst from time to time I was given stretch assignments, the world of entrepreneurship is a different ball game. Before I had my area of expertise, now I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. You now find yourself as the company commercial director, compliance officer, legal department, tax department, finance director, marketing director, copywriter and the list goes on. Some of these things you pick up quite quickly and work to your strengths. Other things you find you don’t enjoy or are just not good at. Whilst you try to find others to help fill those weaknesses, with a limited budget it’s not always easy.
No one to delegate to – the good thing about progressing through the ranks is that the more senior you get, the more people you have that you can hand off work to. Whether it’s a PowerPoint, a report, some analysis or some gruelling excel work. In a start-up that luxury disappears and you become an analyst all over again. So if you do make the decision to become an entrepreneur, be prepared to graft.
Things can get heated – when you’re working as an employee, you care about doing a good job and can get passionate about what you’re doing. However, I promise you that you will not have the same emotional investment as when you have your own start-up. As an entrepreneur I often find myself in heated debates with my business partners over key decisions. The key is not let relationships breakdown, as that’s probably one of the reasons why many start-ups fail.
Never switch off – the great thing about my old role that I took for granted is that for the most part I was able to separate my personal life and work. Weekdays was my life in the city and weekends was my life with my friends and family. Now all I think about is Sprive and it’s almost become an obsession. It doesn’t help that you are now working from home, so it becomes even harder to separate it from your personal life.
So for those who are reading this who have thought about being an entrepreneur, I would say think long and hard. Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone.
For any budding entrepreneurs out there, I am more than happy to connect and share my experience. Just email me directly at email@example.com.