Five Skills The Corporate World Teaches That Will Stand To You If Strike Out On Your Own

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This is a guest post from Gavin Culmsee, COO of Australian furniture franchise company Bedshed.

Gavin CulmseeGavin Culmsee

The desire to break free from corporate shackles hits almost everyone at some point. From redundancy to corporate burn out, it’s not unusual to arrive at the career cross roads.
Transitioning from corporate shark to savvy business owner takes capital, a dash of courage and a good dose of business acumen — three things executives have in spades.

With the financial and lifestyle rewards on offer, it’s no surprise more are considering small business ownership. Depending on which business sector you come from, chances are you probably already possess the following five key transferable skills that all but guarantee success as a franchisee or small business owner.

1. Persuasion

You’ve probably been selling ideas to corporate stakeholders for years. Being able to persuade partners, investors and customers successfully is an essential skill in franchising and small business. It’s all about sealing the deal.

Franchisees often have the opportunity to contribute to broader business decision making by sitting on boards or councils. Bedshed’s Merchandise Advisory Council is made up of a mix of franchisees and corporate staff and the group travels around the world reviewing stock and selecting the products the entire business will sell. Skills of persuasion learnt in the boardroom are invaluable tools when applied to influence decisions for the benefit of your business and the whole franchise network.

2. Networking

Corporate Australia is one big networking mosh pit. In franchising and small business it’s up to you to spread the word — time to go far and wide into your network and leverage the expertise of others in the field.

One of Bedshed’s newest franchisees in Victoria has used his extensive network, built during a career in sales, to strengthen his business. Leveraging contacts in the community, he has formed partnerships which will see him promote other non–competing businesses in exchange for their support and referral business. Having an existing corporate network means you can call in a few favours when you start your own business.

3. Flexibility

Shifts in consumer demand, the rise and rise of social media and a trend towards online shopping all put pressure on franchisees or small business owners to ensure they and their business are nimble and flexible. Executives have years of experience rolling with the punches, from political office environments and changing corporate agendas to competing stakeholder priorities. Business owners who embrace change and are flexible have a significant edge over the competition.

4. Corporate touch points

Insight across the inner workings of business departments and understanding how they interrelate will stand you in good stead. Knowledge of how marketing and sales fit together with HR, IT and supply chain management on a large scale is invaluable when handling all these areas for your own business. Having been in the industry a long time, I’ve seen businesses fail because the person at the helm didn’t have the vision and big picture thinking that is innate for those in the corporate world.

In contrast, those who have the business acumen can be incredibly successful in a franchise environment because there’s room for growth through multi–unit franchising. With economies of scale, multi–unit franchising can be very lucrative. One of our franchisees in WA has three stores already and he attributes his success to a business plan developed during his MBA.

5. Work ethic

Corporate Australia demands a strong and unwavering work ethic, especially in tough economic climates. In a franchise or small business this work ethic is just as important, but you are the one reaping the rewards of your hard work, not the boss.

Greater flexibility to live a better lifestyle is one of the major reasons people decide to try their hand at business ownership. One of our franchisees left the corporate roundabout seven years ago to start a new path. From working all hours for someone else to now having the flexibility to drop the kids off at school and be home in time for dinner, he hasn’t looked back.

Gavin Culmsee is Chief Operating Officer of Bedshed, one of Australia’s largest specialist bedding and bedroom furniture franchises with a network of more than 30 stores across the country. Bedshed has grown steadily since it started in Western Australia in 1980 and is currently expanding on the eastern seaboard.

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