I Was an Employee, Now I Am an Entrepreneur!

Becoming Your Own Boss After Leaving a Job

Circumstances change and jobs can go away. When that happens, a great option is to become your own boss. Jennifer Dillon of Franklin, Massachusetts took that route...and so far, so good.

If you are lucky enough to have a job in an entrepreneurial environment, sometimes that passion can lead you to want to start your own company.

Becoming Your Own Boss After Leaving a Job

Jennifer Dillon left a job and decided to go out on her own. Here's the story of how she was able to become an entrepreneur after leaving a job.

Jennifer, thanks for taking the time to discuss your transition from employee to entrepreneur. So, what type of firm were you working at before you opted to become your own boss and why did you leave that job?

I was working in a branch office for Commonwealth Financial Network. Leaving was a mutual decision made by myself and the registered rep I was working for. There were various personal issues that created the decision. I had worked there for almost 6 years.

You've got your own company now. Congratulations! What is it and what do you do there?

I am a Virtual Assistant and started my business, called Collaborative Connections, in the fall of 2007.

As a Virtual Assistant (VA), I provide close, personal and professional support to other entrepreneurs and small business owners. I become a "virtual partner" in my clients' businesses.

I handle all sorts of mundane, daily tasks for clients as well as collaborating on ideas and strategies to help move their businesses forward. What I provide my clients is time.

By alleviating their focus on the day-to-day tasks that have to be done, I give my clients the time to focus on the part of their business that they enjoy (which is also usually the part that generates their income).

That sounds like a great offering. Now, let me ask you this. Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?

I realized I was tired of working "for" other people.

I was tired of having my skills, my positive energy, and my work taken for granted.

I enjoy working "with" others and I find that by working as a VA, the work I do for clients benefits their businesses AND my business equally. The success of my business is directly related to the value and success I bring to others.

Did you buy a business or start a business from scratch? Why did you do one instead of the other? Which do you think is the best approach?

I had already been thinking of starting my own business as a VA when I left my previous job. And, I already had one client I was working for.

I did not want to invest a lot of money at the outset, so I really never investigated buying a business or a franchise. That's not where my interests or my talents lay, so I never considered it.

I don't know which is the best option, other than it has to fit the individual and what it is he/she wants to do.

That's a good way to look at it. As far as your decision to start a virtual assistants business, how did you decide that was the kind of business you wanted to go into?

I followed my strengths and my passion. I really like supporting other people in achieving their goals. It comes naturally to me to see the big picture and the little picture of a business and then integrate the two.

A good VA is an expert problem solver and that's just an ingrained part of who I am as a person. When I stumbled on the concept of Virtual Assistance, it just seemed like a natural fit.

Owning a business is very different from working as an employee. What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed? What do you miss? What don't you miss?

The work environment of my last job was very open and entrepreneurial. I was very lucky to have worked for someone who fostered my creativity and confidence.

So making the psychological jump from employee to business owner for me happened over time, while I was working for someone else.

In fact, once I realized that I had many of the same entrepreneurial qualities of the business owners I came in contact with, it created the friction that caused me to leave my job.

What I do miss is the regular, steady paycheck, though.

Yep, there's a lot to be said for a regular paycheck. So, what advice would you give to somebody like you who is leaving the life of working for a company to go out on their own?

Be sure you are committed to your goal. There will always be obstacles and you'll need the commitment to see it through. And have a support system, someone or a group of others that you can bounce ideas off and get help from.

Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition that some folks are making right now from being laid off to starting a business?

While losing your job can be a scary prospect, I always believed there would be something better for me. You have to believe in yourself and your ability to land on your feet. Whatever that means for you.

Well said. There's no universally good advice in entrepreneurship because we are all very different. Thanks for taking the time to participate in our entrepreneur interviews, Jennifer, and good luck with the new venture!

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