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I Left My Job, Failed At A Startup, And Changed My Life

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CAREER CHANGES
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Many people in corporate roles fantasize about breaking free and launching an entrepreneurial venture. Three years ago I took the plunge and did just that, leaving behind a senior role in management consulting to start a talent marketplace for freelance consultants. Unfortunately, my business model didn't gain traction, but the experience was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally speaking.

Running a small venture gave me a new skill set, which opened up a range of opportunities and changed the trajectory of my career. If you're thinking about jumping into entrepreneurship, below are five reasons to strongly consider it.

You get to run a 'P&L' immediately
Having spent nearly a decade recruiting MBA grads, I've noticed there is a common ingredient missing from even the top resumes today - profit & loss responsibilities. Resumes can be filled with specialty skills, prestigious companies and Ivy League schools, but nothing replaces the skill set of general management responsibilities.

Whether it is a coffee shop, a food truck or a tech startup, having to generate a profit is an indispensable test that can only be experienced first-hand. Launching your own venture gives you this responsibility immediately, instead of putting it off until you've climbed the corporate ladder and run a large business.

You'll be agile from strategy to execution
In my previous roles I led teams focused on pivoting products and strategies for clients, but rarely did I own the execution of these pivots. Entrepreneurs are directly responsible for the success or failure of their ventures.

This responsibility makes you more inclined to consider numerous alternatives, to be nimble, and to drive changes from inception to execution at pace. The small scale of a new venture gives you the ability to see the results of your pivots very quickly, and it forces you to test multiple ideas in real time. Whether you remain an entrepreneur or return to a corporate role, you will have greatly enhanced your ability to think unconventionally and to convert ideas into tangible opportunities.

You'll develop survival urgency
Until I became an entrepreneur I believed I understood the definition of urgency. Consulting required me to work extremely long hours and to hustle in order to win large deals. You could argue I had urgency, but in reality my firm would continue to operate even if I lost a big follow-on project. I had a safety net. If a startup doesn't win the next deal, or if it underperforms, insolvency is always imminent.

This prospect of failure gives you what I call 'survival' urgency. You develop a bias to action, and an ability to be decisive without overanalyzing, primarily because you don't have the luxury of time. The benefit of developing survival urgency is that it immediately becomes a deeply-rooted orientation. True urgency will do this to you. In my current role at Google, I now have a bias to action that makes me exponentially more productive than when I was a consultant.

You'll understand how to build a product
If you're like me, you've probably spent a good chunk of your adult life evaluating products and user experiences without realizing it. Whether it is moaning about the time spent on-hold with an airline, or griping about an obvious annoyance with your online banking. Most of these experiences were designed by Product Managers.

If you spend all of your time in corporate roles, there is a good chance you might pursue your entire career without truly understanding the end-to-end mechanics that go into building a product or service. Whether it is a digital business or a new flavour of soda, understanding how to build a product that users want to pay for is extremely difficult. It is a mixture of art, science, and in some cases fortunate timing.

Launching a venture is the ultimate crash course in learning to do this. But beware: this is a difficult skill to pick up if you don't have previous experience. So surround yourself with veterans. Today, I work closely with many Product Managers. Without my startup experience I'd be considerably less effective at engaging and partnering with them.

Failure will become synonymous with "opportunity"
Perhaps the most important thing I picked up from my venture failure is an ability to evaluate the full spectrum of potential learning opportunities in the moment -- not just weighing the odds of success or failure.

Entrepreneurship comes with risks, of course, but there are countless ways to get started on a small scale and still derive many of the learnings. I'm now much more inclined to take on new projects in my day job, and explore unique opportunities with more passion and rigour because of the personal payoff I attribute to my first venture. Shifting my mindset to become more entrepreneurial has had a lasting impact on my career and the opportunities I pursue.

My bottom line for aspiring entrepreneurs is this: just do it. Leaving the safety of a blue chip job to pursue a new venture was the best decision I ever made. Not only was there no shame in my "failure," there have been more rewards than I could have anticipated. The experience made me more attractive to prospective employers, and I believe it will make me a better entrepreneur in my next venture.

As a hiring manager today, I value candidates who have shown a willingness to take some form of entrepreneurship risk -- even if just a very small one. I feel this key ingredient makes them not only more valuable but also more interesting to work with.

So if you're still thinking about that new venture opportunity, consider jumping on it.

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