17 April 2013

The journey from employee to entrepreneur

I studied economics at Sydney Uni a long time ago… back in the day when ‘economics’ was still a faculty unto itself. I would spend hours sitting in the Wolstenholme Library trying to make sense of something that to be honest I didn’t ever really grasp, but worse still I was never really interested in or passionate about.

But I got through the degree (just!) and then I ‘did as I was told’ – or at least what every other economics graduate did at the time. I started to climb the proverbial corporate ladder.

I climbed it pretty quickly and fortunately I climbed pretty high too!

A few years ago, as the Hong Kong Director of an international recruitment business, I was having lunch with a client, when he put down his glass of mineral water and out of the blue said, “You know what Paul, I have to admit you really are very good at what you do. Surely at some point you’ve considered going out on your own.”

Of course I had thought about it. But somehow I had always had an excuse. The timing had never felt quite right and I had never considered myself much of a risk-taker.

Today, I am one of the cofounders of RecruitLoop – an online recruitment platform reinventing the way the recruitment industry works – the industry I have spent my entire career in.

I’ll never forget my aha moment when after 15 years working for someone else, the penny finally dropped and I realised that I am in fact a risk-taker. And I can honestly say that leaving the security and stability of the corporate world and getting involved as a cofounder in a tech startup has been the best (albeit by far the toughest) decision I’ve ever made.

Making the transition from employee to entrepreneur has given me an incredible sense of personal achievement, and today I couldn’t think of a better business to be building or a better team to be building it with.

I admit that the idea of starting out on my own had been niggling at the back of my mind for many years. But I had always been comfortable (there’s that dreaded word!) so I never let the idea gather momentum.

The notion of comfort zone plays a huge part for anyone weighing up the pros and cons as to whether or not to go it alone.

Ask anyone who’s taken the plunge and opened the doors to their own business venture, and they’ll tell you there was a particular moment in time when it became a no brainer.

Many people fall for the romantic notion of starting their own business – the flexibility, the freedom, the autonomy. But let’s face it, not everyone is going to be an overnight success so it’s important to balance the positives (which don’t get me wrong, are liberating) with the downside – potential isolation, the need to keep yourself motivated 24x7, not to mention a severely reduced income as you build the business.

So before you get caught up in the excitement of it all, pause for a moment and think realistically whether it is in fact the right move for you.

I know many people coming straight out of university with the mindset (and the ego!) to start their own business and take the world by storm.

Personally I was never one of them and I certainly didn’t have the entrepreneurial spirit the day I accepted my degree in the Great Hall.

I definitely needed to spend a few years in the corporate world. OK so maybe I spent a few too many years enjoying the ‘corporate comforts’. But without the experience I gained (locally and internationally), and without the guidance and mentorship I received from some amazing bosses (who I am still in regular contact with), there is no way I would be the entrepreneur I am today.

There were times when I thrived climbing the corporate ladder. But looking back, making the actual decision to forego the big income (and the prestige) was in some ways harder than facing the obstacles that have presented themselves along my entrepreneurial journey to date.

For anyone stuck at the crossroads as to whether to climb the ladder as opposed to actually building it (and this is coming purely from personal experience), as long as your motivation to start the business is consistent with your passion and enthusiasm for whatever it is you are delivering, you’ll never look back!

Author: Paul Slezak
University of Sydney Business School alumnus

With nearly 20 years in the recruitment industry and having worked for both an international publicly listed group as well as a global niche recruitment business, Paul Slezak has been a hands-on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the industry across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.

Today Paul is a cofounder of RecruitLoop a new online recruitment platform that’s set to reinvent the way recruitment works by providing employers with a totally flexible and stress free recruitment solution charged at an hourly rate.

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