5 key learnings in starting a company – and how these learnings can be applied in the corporate world

Some years ago, I decided to exit the corporate world (at least for a while) for trying out something I have thought about for a long long time. Why? Because I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset having dreams about starting for myself. I had an idea of starting a beverage company in Denmark focusing on launching a range of cold-brewed coffee and tea products in Denmark. After a thorough market study, I could see an opportunity for this kind of products in Denmark.

So, I left my job in the corporate world and threw myself into it on day 1. I set a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (Jim Collins book: Built to Last) of having the first beverages on the market within 3 months. I knew this was a very ambitious target, but I believe in setting ambitious goals to stimulate progress. I also calculated a burn-rate so I knew exactly how long I could go on without an income.

I found a good partner which I joined forces with and we co-founded the business together. The first products were produced within three months of intense work – a first major milestone reached! Even harder work followed finding partners on the sales side. Yet, we were fortunate enough to quickly have customers onboard and sales started to materialize. 

After 2 years of entrepreneurship, I decided to re-enter the corporate world, hence, the startup is today run by other people. . Yet, I have priceless experiences in entrepreneurship which I am now bringing into my work and private life going forward.

Here are my top 5 key learnings on entrepreneurship which you can be inspired from whether you are a self-employed entrepreneur or a corporate entrepreneur:

  1. Cultivate your creativity: Being in a corporate world can put constraints on creativity. You navigate in an organization with lots of stakeholders which can slow down progress and decisions. Being a self-employed entrepreneur stimulated my creative thinking opening up a whole new dimension of ideas and new ways of seeing things. You basically start with a blank sheet of paper and design value chains, visions, strategies, etc. In your workplace, ensure that you set off time for creative thinking and reflections so you can lift your deliverables to higher levels. I call this ‘white space’. Once in a while get out of the office, change the work scene, mingle with people you have not mingled with before, and ensure you educate yourself on a continuous basis
  2. Fail fast: Try things out and launch ideas that are not perfect around the edges. Share ideas and thoughts with your surroundings. It will strengthen your position as a thought leader. It is okay that some ideas fail. Actually, you need to fail on some ideas in order to learn and prosper. More and more major Danish companies are increasingly encouraging their employees to have a more agile mindset and try out things. All in all in response to fast-changing markets, customer needs, etc. New ways of thinking are promoted and making mistakes is necessary in order for companies and individuals to grow.
  3. Think BIG: All behavior is believe-driven. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” I learned that if you believe you can do whatever you envision. I think many Danish companies could be more ambitious and daring in their strategies, targets, and visions. Be courageous and have big goals and dreams. Also, visualize your goals, talk about them as they have been accomplished. You will be surprised how powerful the mind is when you imagine the goals have been reached.
  4. Structured activity planning: Being an entrepreneur required discipline and planning in order to beat procrastination and get the progress needed. Print out a yearly calendar and write yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Having that you can define activities each day so you reach your goals. An effective and very successful method to reach your goals.
  5. Network with the right people: Gather stimuli and share ideas to get other perspectives or to lift ideas to the next level. I learned that criticism is good as it shows interest and will give you insights to improve your products or services. However, avoid the naysayers as they can be draining your energy. Network with people who you feel gives you something and remember to give back. The network is about helping each other out. Pay it forward.

Will I recommend everyone to try out entrepreneurship? No. It requires lots of work, sacrifices, and time. But if you as me felt an urge to test out entrepreneurship, I strongly recommend that you go for it. You can always bounce back to the corporate world. Actually, the corporate world will see this as an advancement to your CV. It shows initiative and drive!

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