What I’ve learnt going from corporate to SME owner

Operating your own business is very different from leading a multinational giant. Here’s what one such operator has learnt about this shift in business.

“I tell you, it’s a whole different world. I’ve got a newfound respect for entrepreneurs,” says Mark Bilton.

Mark built a career as a business leader, turning around struggling major companies including retailers and wholesalers, and culminating in coffee behemoth Gloria Jean’s. However, after completing his role at Gloria Jean’s, he decided that he would use his skills and experience to help guide a range of different business to transform themselves.

It was with this in mind that he set up business leadership and mentoring consultancy Thought Patrol.

“I’ve left my entrepreneurial run late, but it’s never too late. It’s quite a mind shift going from corporate into running your own business,” explains Mark.

“I’m used to having lots of people running around doing things for me. [But in your own business] your printer runs out of ink and you’ve got to then go down to Officeworks and get some more ink. It’s just a whole lot of compliance stuff and your world’s quite different.”

However, while it has been a big adjustment, Mark says it’s one he is thoroughly enjoying, and he can now appreciate why others do the same.

“There’s something inherently satisfying about carving something out of nothing. I’ve enjoyed that. I can see why people get very entrepreneurial,” he admits.

“It’s hard, I would imagine, if you’ve been running your own business for a while, to go back into something where you’re working for someone else. I think I’d struggle to go back now.”

Of course, the most obvious shift has been about making his own income: “[I’ve] gone from corporate, you know, you get a nice big fat check coming in every month, to [small business, where] nothing comes in unless you actually go out and make it happen, particularly in the first few months.”

Yet something perhaps less tangible to those working in corporate is an increase in self-awareness and understanding of your own personal capabilities.

“My limitation is me. People are hiring me because of what I’ve done. There’s not too many people doing what I’m doing who have done what I’ve done,” says Mark.

“[But] that's my biggest limitation: there’s only one of me. I’m starting to bump into myself from time to time. People want things on certain days and I can’t make it, but there’s still some capacity there. At some point I’m going to be bumping into myself too much.”

Hear more from Mark, such as his thoughts on the common traits of successful business owners and the role of a business mentor on the My Business Podcast!

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