The Day I Was Forced to become An ‘Entrepreneur’​

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So, why am I taking the entrepreneurial route soon after quitting my last salaried employment when there wasn’t a eureka moment nor was I planning to pursue entrepreneurship prior to this.

My career, akin to some of yours, was a series of accidents; a couple of them fortunate and the other two, not so much.

The first job occurred by chance when a friend of mine saw an advert in a newspaper and pressed me to attend the interview. As for my second, well, let’s just say that I was “pushed” to look for a greener pasture by the last boss in my first job – does this sound familiar to you? 🙂 The interview for my second job materialised in the form of a feisty lady from around my neighbourhood who introduced herself as a “head-hunter” – my first introduction to what a recruiter does for a living; having no clue at that time that I would end up leading a team of head-hunters many years after!

I quit my third job due to my new marital status, thankfully mature to know that most marriages can’t withstand the pressure of twenty days of travel in a month, in addition to the plain truth that my start-up employer was struggling to keep up with my financial needs. And with that, I arrived at my fourth and final job – the combination of a merger and the appearance of yet another head hunter, did I mention that head-hunters are the best people on earth?:) had me accepting the role of an MD. Fast forward to the present, without any external calls or internal push, I left the corporate world in October 2016 to pursue my entrepreneurial dream.

I know what you’re thinking, if I may be so bold to say – “Why did you quit a corporate career spanning 22 years and with just four employers?” Did I mention that I was also given highly visible business roles and a few remarkable assignments abroad when I was part of the corporate landscape?

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Well, here are a few of my “better” reasons:

  • I am confident that I’m destined for greater things. Don’t we all think we belong somewhere UP there, if I may be so bold to say, again?
  • I was yet another pawn in the trade and got tired of taking instructions from MARS?
  • My bosses no longer inspired me?
  • I was ageing and subordination (read: nodding to everything my bosses said) was becoming a challenge? and
  • Doing the same things over and over again was becoming a yawn, no matter how surprising I find myself labelling the highest paying job I ever had as “boring”!

Again, if I may be so bold to say, I know what you’re thinking – “Nice list of excuses, Kamal!” I certainly can’t disagree with you!

Yes, I know my list of “excuses” seem thankless, especially when I was given opportunities to work with renowned employers. With each employer, I gave my best; propelling me from one career advancement to the next. Yet, the time came when even rewards and recognitions wasn’t enough. Sound greedy? You bet!

To my defense, I reflected for for sometime on why I was becoming increasingly jittery working for long periods with the same employer:

  1. Every time I changed employer, it was due to a stronger ‘push’ factor; the ‘pull’ was merely a trigger;
  2. The sense of belonging was fleeting – they came in spells and disappeared in no time;
  3. The financial incentives were limited and worse, controlled from a distance through out-of-date policies;
  4. My bosses kept changing and to my horror, they eventually looked alike 🙂 and
  5. While the last digit of each calendar year changed to much pomp and festivity, work remained the same-old!

Here I go again – being bold and echoing what’s on your mind – “Don’t you have anything positive to say of your corporate career spanning 22 years, Kamal?” Hey, I am being positive here!

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Was it my last employment stint which spurred me to venture on my own? Saying ‘Yes’ to this question is unacceptable as some of my best professional highs and very memorable relationships (which might last a lifetime, despite my self-accepted narcissism!) happened with my fourth employer. In addition, my last corporate role was possibly the only one where I felt I left on a high. So, why am I taking the entrepreneurial route soon after quitting my last salaried employment when there wasn’t an eureka moment nor was I planning to pursue entrepreneurship prior to this.

To help my cause, I keep telling myself that I am no longer employable; getting to be a tad too rebellious at work; needing more creative space for myself; and desperately wanting to fashion my own world-of-work. But the truth of the matter is, this decision of mine might have stemmed from the cumulative impact of my 22 years of work.

Deep diving, there was two distinct employment tenures of significant impact to my psyche towards entrepreneurship – two employment stints with entrepreneurs where I saw the best of me and many others coming together; where I witnessed comrades on a singular mission – collectively pushing our boundaries; where paperwork was set aside and word of mouth was honoured; and team members challenged each other and dared superiors without fear and for the greater good of all. In short, I beheld genuine passion for work; knowledge as competence; encouragement for risk taking; and rewards and recognitions from the heart. It was simply remarkable to have been part of a dynamic group of people genuinely working for the cause than the money. However and unfortunately, those virtues had expiry dates too and I became jaded when the organisations grew beyond the founder and when so-called professionals took over. But I never stop relishing many moments in those two stints which lasted 12 years. I’ll be daring and say that I want to re-create those moments for me and for others who will soon be working with me.

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Having said that, let me put in a disclaimer – it wasn’t the two entrepreneurial employers who made me think about starting on my own. While reminiscing about the past is nice, I’ve never been inclined to get carried away by nostalgia. I learnt to be more resilient and disciplined working for large MNCs and the ability of MNCs to institutionalise key learnings and build strong corporate cultures that last for decades are not only commendable but also hard to emulate by others.

Concluding in all honesty, I don’t know how entrepreneurship is going to be like for me. Yes, while it sounds aspirational, the hard lessons will come by when I meet my first set of aspirant colleagues, clients and investors. Till that reality hits me, I’ll be looking at it like an adventure sport – I’ve never skydived but whenever I think of it, I get goosebumps hence it is on my must-do-list just like entrepreneurship!

For now, I’m sleeping well without waking up intermittently thinking about “What’s next?”. I’ll be sure to let you know how long this ecstasy will last!

Instantly I feel 20 years’ younger having readied my bike to reclaim that energy, I think I am ready for the new life!

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