I took the plunge and started a business. If you answer a few important questions for yourself, you too will learn to swim quickly. By Petra Grell Kunzinger
“How can you give up your safe job at the bank?” my aunt asked me many years ago when I switched to management consulting. What she said when I quit my position as managing director in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 to start several companies, I’d rather not tell you.
Was it really such a brave decision as I keep hearing? From secure employment to entrepreneurship? I hadn’t really thought about it two years ago, it just felt right.
Looking back, I want to share my experience with you. Because there are advantages and disadvantages and you can only judge for yourself how to deal with them. Ten percent of those in employment in Germany and Austria have opted for self-employment, more than half of them without employees. What is your heart beating for?
Petra Grell-Kunzinger is a serial entrepreneur – in addition to the care platform miazorgo.com, she founded the management consultancy Bright Brains and 1000neue.institute – the institute for modern leadership. The mathematician also works as a business angel and mentor.
As an employed managing director, I had great responsibility for a company, its employees and customers – all embedded in a solid structure. Similar to the captain on a cruise ship, you have a large team that takes care of the guests and operational activities. The invoices are paid by the shipping company, sales via the travel agency are well coordinated. As a captain, you are responsible for optimal processes, motivated employees and satisfied customers. However, the decisions are not always easy.
In the summer of 2020 I switched from the bridge of the big ship to my small, self-designed nutshell, with which I embarked on new adventures as an entrepreneur. The creative freedom is infinite, as is the responsibility. On the open sea you are shaken up very directly in a small boat, you are working 24/7, trying out, adjusting – a wrong decision can have drastic consequences. In the beginning you are often a solo sailor, maybe you already have a few fellow combatants on board. Here it is important that you can rely on each other blindly and have a common goal – no matter what the wind.
What type are you? Which environment do you like better?
The big cruise ship with all the amenities and at the same time the necessary framework conditions or restrictions? Or would you prefer the freedom on your own sailing boat with all the opportunities and risks that you can feel very directly?
How would you deal with failure? What consequences would you be afraid of? It’s helpful to think about this in advance so that you can calmly take control of the steering wheel when you’re stressed.
I founded a nursing startup, a consulting firm and a leadership training institute. I really enjoy talking about my own “babies” and the vision. Enthusiasm literally gives you wings and you need them too. As a founder, you are on the road day and night on behalf of your own company – because you are the company yourself – constantly. As my own boss, I can allocate my time freely, nobody dictates anything to me.
At the same time, it’s not always easy to stay focused because you’re responsible for everything at the same time – from strategy to financing, product development, marketing, IT, data protection and much more. It takes a lot of energy, staying power and sufficient financial and mental resources to avoid capsizing in rough waters.
What type are you? In which world do you feel more comfortable?
Do you enjoy being able to decide everything yourself? Do you have the necessary stamina and strength to sail towards your destination in all weather conditions and in unexplored waters? Or do they prefer to drive a familiar route, with less risk but less variety?
Why did I found? I recognized some social problems for which I wanted to create solutions – whether in nursing or in leadership. I want to make a difference
As an entrepreneur, you see problems and develop helpful solutions, the benefits of which you then actively spread out into the world. It is important to feel a great passion for it, because the hardships to success can be great, especially in the beginning. There is still no team to which tasks can be delegated, no turnover that covers the expenses for development and marketing. But this “suffering” creates added value for many people as an entrepreneur. And it is this “impact” that gives me almost infinite energy.
Therefore, some important questions before you embark on the start-up adventure:
Do you really solve a big problem with your idea, do you create real benefits with it? If not, it could get very stormy, because according to an analysis by CB Insights, a lack of customer value is the second most common reason why startups fail.
Do you feel enough passion for your vision? What is important to you personally?
It is a life decision that you make as a founder, a big task and also a responsibility that you take on. You can’t just give them away in the evening, because they’re part of your life.
And this life is suddenly very different. I felt lonely at the beginning, as a self-employed person working from home. Until I realized that everyday office life was unusual for everyone due to Covid. My learning: Together you feel less alone – also as an entrepreneur.
So my tip: look for like-minded people or business sparring partners with whom you can exchange ideas openly and honestly. You don’t have to do it alone!
I personally enjoy this trip a lot and I am happy when more and more people dare to take on the adventure.
The Mission Female business network, founded by Frederike Probert, is actively committed to more female power in business, society, media, culture, sports and politics. It unites successful women across all industries with the aim of making further professional progress together.