How doing time in big business can make your small business fly

Sylvia Pennington

Working for a large organisation versus founding your own shoestring enterprise…they may seem poles apart, but a stretch of the former can serve you very well when the time comes to try the latter. With five years’ experience running a $20 million project portfolio for BHP Billiton, David Shaw, co-founder of tech start-up, Genesis AR, can certainly attest to this.

Here are some advantages a stint in big business can offer aspiring entrepreneurs.

Managing money

Spend a few years in the corporate world and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself responsible for a reasonable sized project or piece of work – scheduling, budget and all. The skills you acquire in the process are gold when you go out on your own, according to Shaw, the 28 year old who co-founded the augmented reality software start-up, Genesis AR.

“You become commercially focused and that’s invaluable when you’re bootstrapping your own business,” Shaw says.

"“You learn how to manage your way through a bureaucracy and get what you want done,” Shaw says."

The way we do the things we do

Hoping your start-up can do business with big business? It helps to have inside knowledge on how large players roll and whose buy-in you need to ink a deal or get a project off the ground.

“You learn how to manage your way through a bureaucracy and get what you want done,” Shaw says.

Build your skills

Working in big business can offer training and development opportunities which are well beyond the budget of many start-ups. Make the most of them while you’re there, business strategist and author of Break Free From Corporate Gavin Sequeria advises.

“Often the company will support you in your quest to better yourself so you become more valuable to them,” he says. “Inevitably these skills will serve you in your own business as well, so take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow.”

“Taking this experience into your own business will serve you well."

It’s not what you know…

A network of friends and professional contacts means ready access to advice, partnerships and referrals – and doing time with a large player provides an excellent opportunity to start building yours.

“Your network becomes your net worth and working in corporate gives you the ultimate platform to make valuable connections,” Sequeira says.

Managers and mentors

Take a job in corporate and your place in the hierarchy will be crystal clear – there’ll be a manager to report to and, if you’re lucky, mentors to encourage and inspire you. Having this understanding of how people’s careers and performance are nurtured and managed in an established organisation can be helpful when you employ staff of your own.

“Taking this experience into your own business will serve you well, as you’ll need to lead yourself and your team, be a mentor to others and develop talent, Sequeria says.

So if you really want to be your own boss and stand the best chance of success, take some time to consider this: working for a large corporate might just be the best internship you’ll ever get. 

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

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