Six years ago this month I had the hard conversation with my director of fifteen years, telling him that I was planning on leaving my job to pursue the dream of opening a restaurant. It was difficult, in part because we had worked together for so many years, but also because of the friendship and camaraderie that had developed, plus the memories of great and sorrowful moments, as well as the understanding of the task he would face in replacing me.
I wanted to leave well, which is why I planned on a seven month exit strategy. I did my best to work doubly hard to ensure a good transition and not leave in a hurry. I wanted to be missed. I did not want it to be seen as a relief that I was gone.
Entrepreneur, if you are planning on becoming your own boss, if you are ready to set out on the road toward seeing your dream come true; let me offer some advice that will serve when you find yourself further down that road.
How you leave is how you begin. I remember seeing this in the churches I’ve been involved in over the years. People usually leave a church because they are mad about something. They don’t like the way the pastor preaches. They don’t like the kids program. The youth director doesn’t show your kid enough attention. So folks would leave and go to another church in town, or in the extreme, start their own church so they could do it right. Churches that were started in this kind of anger became angry churches.
The principle applies to any organization. Is your business a response to a need in the market, or is it a reaction to something against the market. The guy that hates Starbucks needs to be aware of this bias as he opens his own neighborhood coffee shop. Is his business model something fresh, new and original or is it just anti-Starbucks? Reactionary effort rarely translates into long term success.
Don’t burn any bridges. As a small business owner, you are going to need all the help and support you can get, especially when the going gets tough, when you’re not sure how you are going to make payroll and you are discouraged to the point of sleeplessness and you wonder if you made the biggest mistake of your life in opening this business. The broader your network, the better your chances are of building a strong reputation and relying on that network in time of need.
Remember what got you to this point. Five years ago, when my dad died, I began his eulogy with this statement:
It took a while, as it does for most youth, to realize that the vistas of the world I was seeing was a direct result of the shoulders I was standing on
As an idealistic young kid, I was eager to move away from home and strike out on my own and prove I had what it takes to be somebody. Little did I know that I would take with me the wisdom, values and horse sense modeled for me by my father. I was a product of my family and I didn’t realize it until later.
I continue to peel back layers and uncover evidence of influence my dad has had on me. When the faucet on the handwashing sink began leaking this week, I knew it most likely needed a new rubber washer on the valve seat, but further investigation revealed a stripped brass stem which also needed replaced. Karen asked me how I knew what to do, and I told her, “I am Jack’s son.”
My former boss and I still have coffee from time to time. I see him in my restaurant and we can easily pick up where we left off. Our work is different now, but our commonalities still remain