Can Aspiring Self-Bossers Learn from Corporate Types?

July 18, 2012 |

It’s been 17 years since I worked for a major corporation. Since then I’ve been in the business of helping people break free of the job world to be their own boss.

So trust me when I say that no one was more surprised than me how much I both enjoyed and learned from spending two days at McDonald’s European Women’s Conference in Lisbon.

Here are four lessons you can use in your journey to self-employment.

1) Rapid communication and implementation rocks.

We all have good ideas. If you’re going to have a successful business, it’s essential that you use the tools available to you to communicate and then take action — quickly.

Case in point: On my last few out of town trips, I rented my car from Enterprise. Regardless of what city, the service was noticeably exceptional.

I know a corporate initiative when I see one so I asked the young guy helping me with my bags, “What’s happening at Enterprise?” He just smiled.

So I wasn’t surprised when one of the other outside speakers in Lisbon used Enterprise as an example of rapid implementation.

For example, the company has begun tracking how small things like how when one rental center began offering drivers a bottle of water on both ends of their trip they increased overall customer satisfaction.

Far more impressive is how they’re using technology to not only measure but then to actually communicate and implement these and other employee-driven ideas across their entire chain in as little as 48 hours.

The lesson for you as a solopreneur is to look for ways you can use technology like social media to quickly and easily get feedback from your own current or prospective customers.

Then imagine how much further along you’d be if you took steps to implemented at least one of your great ideas in the next 48 hours!

2) Get an outsider view of what’s going on.

When you’re contemplating changing course, it’s easy to get lost in your head and thus to lose perspective.

When large organizations want to get an objective view of things they bring in a team of external consultants. But do these MBA types really see things that differently?

According to Eleanor Tabi Haller-Jorden, General Manager of Catalyst, Europe to get a truly outside perspective Intel hired two cultural anthropologists.

Maybe you can’t hire a cultural anthropologist. But what if you got some feedback from people with a fresh eye for your idea or situation?

If you’ve been thinking of planning home funerals or starting a summer camp for over-weight teens then by all means, learn what you can from those who have already done it.

But wouldn’t it be interesting to gather some fresh insight from someone who owns a pet supply business, from a ten year old, or someone who recently immigrated from a developing county? What might they see that you don’t?

3) Keep saying “Yes.”

In 1978 Jan Fields and her military husband were just short of broke.

The new mother desperately needed to find a job so she could go to law school at night. Juggling a baby, a 9-5 job, and school was not going to be easy.

On her way to a job interview, Jan stopped at McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. That’s when she says she saw a notice that the restaurant was hiring. In big letters were the words: Flexible hours.

She applied and got the job on the spot. When the manager asked if she could start the next day Jan said yes.

When a co-worker called after her first day on the job to ask her to work the closing shift, she said yes again. A month later she was offered the job of store manager.

It went that way for a few more decades.

Today Jan is president of McDonalds USA.

Not all opportunities are glamorous. Even when you aren’t sure where the path will take you, the key is to say yes and keep saying it.

4) You’re ready right now.

Far too many perfectly capable people fail to take their career or business to the next level because they believe they’re “not ready.”

It almost happened to Jan Field.

At one point in her career she’d been approached to apply for a job that would be a major step up. Even with her remarkable track record Jan was hesitant explaining to her boss and mentor that she didn’t think she was ready for it.

When she subsequently learned who had applied she realized she was more qualified than all of them. So she applied for and got the promotion.

Speaking of her experience in a interview, Jan said, “I learned an important lesson about not being your own obstacle because you’re afraid to take a risk. The irony is that the job was one of the best I’ve had over my career.”

The fact is Jan was able — and so are you.

Your perfect business could be right in front of your nose. The only thing standing between you and your dreams is your false belief that you’re not ready.

You will never feel “ready.” But make no mistake about it, you can do it.