Employee to Entrepreneur

Leaving a Job to Become a Business Owner

Penny Haynes of Holly Springs, Georgia saw the writing on the wall when business slowed down at her company. So, she started a business of her own.

After leaving a job or losing a job, you may be thinking about becoming an entrepreneur.

Penny Haynes was kind enough to participate in a Gaebler.com entrepreneur interview and share her story, as well as some excellent tips for would-be business owners.

What type of firm were you working at before you went out on your own, Penny?

I was working for a graphic arts related firm, one that refurbished printing presses.

It was partially a matter of downsizing (the work was slowing down), and partially a matter of choice.

I loved the company, my bosses and co-workers, but I wanted to start my own business. I had already gone down to 2 - 3 days a week (due to the lack of work to do), so this wasn't a surprise.

You've got your own company now, right? What is it and what do you do there?

My business is The Commercial Creation Center.

I help people create audio and video to promote their businesses online. I have used my programming skills from my previous jobs, plus my experience with audio and video, to create simple software for multimedia novices to use, and then provide personal assistance to them with their projects.

I had been doing live group multimedia training for a few years, but I have since decided to combine my software as a service (SAAS) with weekly personal assistance. I also created two other software projects that actually paid for themselves, but with the economy, they have slowed down. They are much more expensive software programs, so I am focusing now on the $19.99 a month SAAS.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?

I made a conscious decision that I wanted to be able to take off for a ranch in Colorado if I wanted to, just like my boss. I didn't want to have my daily life scheduled by someone else until I was 70.

Also, I am a very creative person who likes the challenge of creating something no one has ever thought of. Very few jobs let you be that innovative

That's true. Did you buy this business or did you start a business from scratch?

I started my business from scratch, because no one else was doing what I wanted to do.

I follow the Blue Ocean Strategy. Don't go into a field where there is a ton of competition. Create an entirely new field.

The challenge there is getting your new idea across to everyone, not competing with other vendors, and I like those chances for success much better.

How did you decide what kind of business to go into?

I have a lifetime of experience with audio recording and editing, plus two years of experience as a television producer, director and editor. I also have been programming since the early 1990s.

I started a downloadable audio book business in 2004, which turned into an audio recording/editing training business, which then turned into a Podcasting Consultant business. I then added video to my training courses when broadband became more readily available.

Finally, I recognized the issues my students were having and realized that they needed most of what I was teaching them to be automated, because they weren't always "getting" it. That's where the Commercial Creation Center software came to be, as well as my other Podcast Directories For Sale, and Online Community Magazines software.

So, basically, I combined my passions for multimedia, teaching and programming to create the business I have right now.

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?

I have to find my own customers, which is the hardest part. That's not my natural bent - I'm a creative and an innovator, not a sales person.

I can talk for days excitedly about my products and services, but I just don't feel comfortable pushing someone for the sale.

I miss seeing the people I worked for. I really loved them. I had known some of them in the industry for a very long time (12 years), and they were the absolute nicest, most wonderful people to work with. They paid me very well and made me feel very confident about my abilities. I miss interacting with them.

I don't miss someone else setting my days and hours. I don't miss having to drive somewhere else and paying for gas. I don't leave the house for days at a time now, because everything I do is virtual.

What advice would you give to somebody who is leaving the life of working for a company to go out on their own?

Start looking for clients NOW. I find that it is true that 80% of my business comes from 20% of my clients. Those who took one class normally took more classes, and were the first to jump on board to purchase my software.

Join a networking group of other people who may need your service, and if possible, where you have no other (or very little) competition. Use Social Media and Social Networks to get your name out there, and where you can show off your expertise.

Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition from being laid off to starting a business?

It may be a smart choice for you to look for a part-time job while you are building your business, unless you have a lot of savings off which you can live. It takes a while to build up clientele and get yourself established for most people.

Great advice. Thanks so much for joining us for this interview. Good luck growing your business!

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