Making the Transition from Employee to Successful Entrepreneur
Starting an Online Game Company
Douglas Granzow is a talented entrepreneur from Ashburn, Virginia. He left a large company to become his own boss. He's now enjoying life running a popular online business game called Tycoon Online.
Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone.
But lots of folks take the plunge and start their own companies. If you're on the fence, you'll enjoy this interview with Douglas Granzow, an entrepreneur who left big company life to go out on his own.
Douglas, what job did you leave right before you became an entrepreneur? Why did you leave?
I was working at a large Internet company.
I left on my own for a couple of reasons.
One is that it became clear to me that the management structure and culture of the company was stifling my creativity and productivity. Plus, I was already working on my own business as a side project and it was starting to grow and take over my life.
That's a big change to make. Were your loved ones and family supportive of you making this transition?
My wife has been incredibly supportive. She has a stable income and that helped to make it possible for me to make the jump. She also has a great business sense and I know I can go to her for input and suggestions. Without her, I would not have been able to do this.
It's good to have a strong life partner like that. So, tell us about your company. What is it and what do you do there?
I run an online business-themed game that you can play from a web browser. The game is free to play and doesn't need any special software, so the barriers new players face to join the game are very low.
The game is called Tycoon Online. It currently has about 10,000 players world-wide, and generates revenue primarily from premium memberships. I am the CEO of my company, but my passion is on the technical and product development side of things.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?
Mostly because I wanted to care about the work I did. Most companies that I have worked at seem to actively discourage their employees being passionate about what they do.
Sometimes they talk a good talk about passion and dedication to your work - but the reality has been very different, at least in my experience.
Did you buy a business or start a business from scratch?
I bought it - but it was more of an opportunity that fell into my lap.
Instead of going out and seeking businesses to buy, I saw an opportunity when the original developer was clearly struggling to keep the game going. It was a game I liked very much, and I didn't want to see it fail.
He and I began talking, and ultimately we made a deal and the game became mine.
How did you decide what type of business to go into?
I've always been a fan of simulation and business-type games, and I spent a lot of time seeking out an online, massively multiplayer game in that genre. I feel it is an under-served niche. So when I saw an opportunity to serve that niche, I jumped on it.
I imagine you're finding that having your own company is very different from working as an employee. What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed?
The biggest adjustment I've had to make is to really learn how to prioritize your goals and manage your time properly.
Nobody is giving me a deadline or a set of quarterly goals - it is entirely up to me to determine my own goals. And sometimes figuring out the right goals is very challenging.
For example, how to I choose which parts of the business to focus on? Do I prepare my taxes, which generates no revenue but I will have to do eventually, or do I work on the next big marketing project, which I don't have to do, but could double the size of the business?
Yeah, it's always a challenge to balance the stuff you have to do with the stuff you'd like to do. So, what other good advice would you give to somebody who is leaving the life of working for a company to go out on their own?
You really need to be prepared for failures. You are going to have lots of little failures on your way to success, but you have to have the mental ability to deal with those failures, and to be able to analyze them and learn from them.
Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition from being laid off to starting a business?
The decision to start a business is a very, very tough one.
You are going to have coworkers telling you it is a dumb idea and that you will never succeed. You are going to have people on entrepreneur-oriented sites pumping you up and telling you how great a choice it is.
The truth is that it really depends on the individual. It is a huge jump from cube-dweller to business executive, and the only way to really determine if it is the right thing to do is to really look at yourself, your own weakness, strengths, and passions, and decide what is best for you.
That's really good advice. Thanks tons for joining us for this entrepreneur interview. I think many of the people who visit our site will benefit from your advice.
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