There is no standard journey or common path to becoming an entrepreneur. Each of us has our own story and our own reason for choosing this path. The entrepreneurial path lacks “perceived” security, elements of prestige, and can be a lonely journey. However, I’ve found that the fear can be properly managed when security is objectively analyzed.
My journey began really taking shape after spending around 20 years working in large Fortune 500 companies. As I began thinking about my next 20 years, I found myself not being excited about the different paths and potential positions that were in front of me.
I longed for a career that didn’t have me checking my 401k and wondering regularly if I had the “security” needed to walk away and enjoy life.
I built out my entrepreneurial transition plan that was based on security and financial independence. I shared that plan with a few mentors that I trusted and asked for their thoughts and feedback.
Sharing my desires and my plan was the first step of my entrepreneurial journey. Getting serious about a transition and what possible next steps I would make changed my mindset radically. Things I previously ignored, I now looked at as opportunities, and in my case, the timeline I laid out for myself got pulled forward by a chance encounter that I would have ignored if I hadn’t laid my plan out earlier.
Jumping into a brewery partnership didn’t match my “strategic plan,” but it aligned with what I had written and shared with mentors. I approached it in a minimum viable product manner while still working within a large corporation. Mistakes were numerous and expensive, but they didn’t bankrupt the business. Step by step, the brewery gained momentum and new opportunities came our way. My strategic plan had now been radically accelerated, and the time came that I had to pull the plug from my perceived security provided by working within a large corporation.
I’ve got a few pieces of advice for others that might be in a situation similar to mine:
Develop a work forever mindset: If you are doing a job that you really love and you’re passionate about, you’ll never consider retiring. Retiring and doing nothing is a recipe for misery.
Develop a plan and share that plan with a few people you trust: Be strategic about what you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life. Do research on what skills you’ll need to gain, what capital you’ll need, and what your timeline will be.
Take an iterative approach: Going “all-in” shouldn’t happen until ideas have been tested and business plans have been validated. Make small investments and your new vocation should start as a hobby.
Make the leap: Once the business has been validated, it’s time to make the transition. Risk and danger are two different things. It’s risky to start a new venture on your own, or with partners. It’s dangerous to work without passion, or excitement. You only get one life to live. Living it with passion, purpose, and excitement is worth the risk.
Jeff Charlson is partner/CEO of Bike Rack Brewing Co. and Senior Entrepreneur in Residence for Startup Junkie. Jeff helped found Bike Rack Brewing Co. in 2014 while he was still working at Walmart Stores, Inc. in Bentonville, AR. Jeff spent nearly 25 years working for three Fortune 500 companies. Jeff had various roles in technology, management & sales throughout his career. The last 7 years of Jeff's career at Walmart were as a corporate officer/VP within the technology division. Jeff has lived in NWA for the last 17 years, and loves connecting with the community, working with entrepreneurs, listening to live music, mountain biking and spending time with his family & friends.