People are not born entrepreneurs. They normally become one after a problem is presented to them. Some are trying to solve a common issue we face, while some are trying to change the world. Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, one of the most common catalysts I have found for entrepreneurship has been associated with job loss.
Many people seem to get a kick-start to become an entrepreneur when they lose their job. This is exactly what happened to me. I was only a part-time self-professed content marketer when I lost my job. I had to make a decision at that time to either re-enter the workforce or take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship. Almost four years later, I operate a growing marketing firm and write for publications such as Entrepreneur.
A welcome wake-up call
Alex Charfen, co-founder and CEO of Charfen, attributes this kick-start to new-found freedom. “The reason so many people start businesses after losing their job is that it’s often the first time they get a taste of freedom,” says Charfen, who is the author of Entrepreneurial Personality Type: Your guide to the most important and misunderstood people among us. “They’re finally away from the constraints of a job, from someone managing their outcomes every day -- and immediately, it’s hard to go back. When we feel the freedom of leaving the constraints of a job, it’s very hard for our personality type to go back. So, oftentimes, losing a job is when entrepreneurs finally wake up.”
From looking for work to helping others find work.
Downsizing is never a fun experience and for Sanjay Sathe it was no different. “Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat,” says Sathe, reciting a quote from Napoleon Hill. It was Sathe’s “temporary defeat” that led him into the world of entrepreneurship.
The word came in 2006, when Sathe was vice president of Enterprise Data Management for a division of Sabre Holdings, that the unit was being taken private and downsizing was part of the reorganization.
“I was given the services of a traditional outplacement company,” says Sathe. “It took me a couple of weeks to get an appointment, then I drove 45 miles and sat in the lobby for a while before someone took me into a conference room and gave me a big spiel about my life. They gave me a binder and told me to come for a class the next day. When I got out the first thing that came to mind is that these folks are living in the stone age. The world has changed, the way we look at job search has changed.”
Sathe saw that the industry was ripe for disruption. He found that trying to find a job online was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. “It was a full-time job in itself,” he adds. “I had to go through a multitude of websites and there was no intelligence on the sites. I had to do the same thing again and again each day.” It was then he got the idea to create what he describes as an “eHarmony in the job space.”
Sathe founded RiseSmart in 2006 as a way to connect job seekers with employers. He led the company into being one of the fastest growing outplacement companies in the world. In late 2015, it was acquired by Dutch human resource consulting firm, Randstad Holding NV, for $100 million. Not a bad result for getting laid off.
Being an entrepreneur is not easy. Sathe likens his experience with being on a rollercoaster. He says there were many “ah-ha” moments, but it wasn’t until the company received its first round of Series A funding that he felt he was on his way with a successful venture. Prior to its sale last year, RiseSmart raised a total of $27 million in venture capital.
As far as advice goes for people thinking of stepping into entrepreneurship, Sathe passes along a quote from Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Sathe adds, “I would say you don’t get these chances often, to come out of your comfort zone and get challenged. A lot depends if you want to go on the offense and take up the challenge or not. Also appetite for risk and personal circumstance, of course, is there but I would highly recommend people to get a taste of entrepreneurship.”
From the NFL to at-home senior-care.
“I never gave it a second thought,” says Tafa Jefferson, referring to his decision to enter the world of entrepreneurship. After playing football in college and then professionally for the Chicago Bears, Jefferson was able to pursue his dream thanks to an injury he sustained with the Bears. “I always knew that I’d eventually be an entrepreneur, whether I played one or 10 years in the NFL. Getting injured when I did just expedited the inevitable.”
Jefferson sustained an injury that would not allow him to return to the NFL. With football no longer an option, he faced a decision that many of us have faced -- try to go back into the workforce or pursue entrepreneurship. The current franchisor chose the latter.
Jefferson went into healthcare, a profession that was already close to his family. His mom worked as a caregiver, and upon his return from the NFL, he found that many nurses were being let go by a local company. He combined his knowledge of the business along with his father’s entrepreneurial spirit to start what eventually became known as Amada Senior Care, a senior home healthcare service.
“It was a natural fit for what I knew and what opportunity was there,” says Jefferson. “Between learning how to be an entrepreneur from my dad and learning to love seniors from my mom, I guess I was kind of raised to do this.”
Jefferson has enjoyed success with the business. It has grown to 60 franchise locations in 25 states with plans to open a total of 200 by 2018. However, Jefferson does not measure his success by numbers.
“I think success is defined differently by different people,” says Jefferson. “I'd say I felt success the first time I met with my first client and matched them up with a really good nurse and they were both ecstatic about having each other. I knew at that time that I'd found something that I could feel really good about doing for the rest of my life.”
“Be grateful.” This is the best piece of advice Jefferson gives to people facing the same situation of job loss. “My business partner Chad Fotheringham lost his job after a successful 10 year career with Pfizer and he always talks about how it was the greatest blessing of his life.”
He also adds that most people in the corporate world already have the skills to be entrepreneurs. “Most people who work in corporate jobs don't realize how well their skills and training translate in the entrepreneurial world. They have been trained to think that the corporation is the reason for the success. However, in reality the only reason those corporations are successful is because they have a lot of very talented employees that could take those skills and work ethics and be very successful in their own businesses.”
Overall, the decision to enter entrepreneurship worked out great for Jefferson. In the end, he says hard work will eventually pay off. “If you are hardworking and willing to take a little more risk, you can build your own brand.”
Finding your career path.
If you lose your job and think about starting a business, you are definitely at a crossroads. You can choose to re-enter the job market or venture out on your own. There are many risks associated with both but your new found freedom could be the key to your entrepreneurial success. While not guaranteed, you don’t have the pressure of your current job to hold you back from pursuing your dreams.
On a final note, running your own business is not for everyone. I have run several, not all of which were successful, but I will say that there is no other path I would choose.
What’s your entrepreneurial story?