Employee to Entrepreneur Interviews

Starting a Consulting Business After Being Laid Off

When life deals you lemons, make lemonade. That's what Mark Stelzner did after his company merged with a large company and downsized his position. His new consulting firm is doing well, and he has some great advice for others who are contemplating becoming entrepreneurs after a change in employment puts them into free agency.

Mark Stelzner successfully made the transition from being laid off to starting a company.

We asked Mark to describe his own transition from losing a job to becoming a successful entrepreneur and explain what lessons he's learned along the way.

Mark, what type of firm were you working at when you were let go?

My prior firm was a global consulting organization focused on advising the world's largest public sector entities. As the leader of marketing and market development, I travelled and spoke extensively to audiences ranging from 50 to 5,000. I was let go in early 2006 due to a pending merger with our largest competitor.

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

Inflexion Advisors LLC helps public and private organizations through periods of tremendous change. We are based in Washington, DC.

The majority of our work is related to human resources professionals and their third-party providers. I am the founder and principal consultant who leads our marketing and market development functions.

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

The personal and professional freedom afforded to entrepreneurial ventures was very attractive to me.

My prior "jobs" required extensive travel, demands on my time and personal sacrifice, and my seniority necessitated a continued commitment to that lifestyle.

The restoration of balance became a top priority to me and helped to fuel my desire to build the type of firm that rewards working smart over working hard.

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 grew my firm organically and I believe that this is the best approach for most. Founding an idea, organization, product or service creates a sense of both pride and responsibility. You have no one to blame for your failures and many to thank for your successes.

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

Inflexion is a natural continuation of the type of work I've been doing for some time now. It is through this vehicle that I will be able to truly innovate, but one must build from a foundation of success to be credible.

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?

Great question. I miss the support infrastructure that we all take for granted in day-to-day jobs, ranging from IT and facilities to HR and finance.

Although the socialization is different, I do not miss the politics or time wasted in idle chatter with people that you'd likely never see again. Friendships are so important, but authenticity and trust trump volumes of poor relationships.

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

Do your homework. If you have the opportunity, begin to formulate your business plan and pre-seed your targeted clientele well before you make the leap.

Surround yourself with people you truly like and who challenge you to become the person you aspire to be. Be prepared for hard times, emotional rollercoasters and doubt. But remain confident in your abilities, your fortitude and desire to succeed.

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

There is a natural mourning process to being laid off. Do not be surprised by your feelings and do not pretend that everything is "just fine". It's not fine. That being said, learn from your mistakes and press forward with the knowledge that you are the boss now, and you are fully accountable to yourself, your family and those who follow you into battle.

That's a great outlook to have. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your advice with us.

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We hope you enjoyed this interview with Mark Stelzner on what it takes to go from employee to entrepreneur. We welcome your comments, tips and advice below. Thanks!

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