- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Many entrepreneurs get a bit of a rude awakening when they make the transition from someone else’s employee to head of a company.

Suddenly they are in charge of a long list of chores that they can’t just turn over to someone else — there’s no accounts receivables or human resources departments. And the security of a weekly or biweekly paycheck is gone.

Susan Wilson Solovic describes the shift from corporate marketing executive to business owner and jack of all trades as a culture shock that took about six months to wear off.

“When you’re sitting in corporate America and the grass looks greener — to be your own boss, manage your own schedule, maintaining control of your own creativity — what you don’t factor into the equation is all the support corporate America gives you,” said Miss Solovic, president of SBTV.com, a St. Louis-based Web site that targets small businesses.

So, on starting her first company, Susan Says Inc., in 1999, she discovered, “I’m now the secretary, the receptionist, the bookkeeper, the sales team, the janitor.”

The hardest part of the transition for Barbara Sheridan when she founded her human resources firm in 1999 was becoming a saleswoman.

Miss Sheridan had worked more than 18 years as a corporate human resources professional before starting Charlotte, N.C.-based HR Xcel Inc., and so she certainly knew how to provide HR services. But selling was something new for her, and particularly challenging because she was trying to persuade customers to sign with a company that had no track record.

“I had a strong resume that said, ‘I’ve done it internally,’ but to do it externally and charge money, it’s a little different,” Miss Sheridan said.

“I think people really underestimate, when starting a business, that sales aspect,” said Miss Sheridan, whose company is now large enough to have a vice president for sales among its more than 50 employees.

The worry factor is the tough part for many new company owners.

“There’s a lot to keep you up at night,” said Kelly Koeller, who owns Gluten-Free Market Inc., a store and Web site based in the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove that sells gluten- and casein-free foods. Mr. Koeller began the business in April 2002 after working in electronic information at W.W. Grainger Inc., a supplier of maintenance products.

Mr. Koeller said starting his own business forced him to be more cautious, not only in his business, but also when it came to his family’s finances.

“As an employee, you can take more risks because you get your paycheck from someone else,” he said.

When Glenn Fromer went from corporate finance jobs to head of his own accounting software firm in 1999, he found that being an entrepreneur was a huge change.

“You’re never off,” said Mr. Fromer, owner of Treasury Software in Weston, Fla., near Miami. “As an employee, you left at 5, you were done. Here, you’re always on.”

The size of his work force, now 11 persons, was also an adjustment. “Socially, it’s different working in a small office as opposed to working with 200, 300, 400 people,” Mr. Fromer said.

But there are definite pluses to this different kind of life, like being able to see his children’s after-school games.

“It’s a lot easier to do what you want to do,” Mr. Fromer said.

For many entrepreneurs, the transition is harder because something doesn’t go according to plan.

Tony Katsulos, president of Trinity Public Relations Inc. in New York, had a partner in the planning stages, but the partner backed out at the last minute. His would-be partner was supposed to handle many of the administrative chores that Mr. Katsulos ended up with when the company was founded in April 2002.

The unexpected multitasking made the transition harder. But, like other entrepreneurs, Mr. Katsulos found the burden got easier when he hired a staff he could delegate responsibilities to and when he began to outsource some work.




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