Intelivate’s Kris Fannin gives an answer to a frequent question – should you work for someone else before starting your own business? Short answer – yes.


People frequently ask me if you should start your own business immediately or work as an employee first.

Regardless of the amount of funding you have, I recommend working for another company first before owning your own business.

I learned a lot from being an employee (including how to find a career path) early in my career. There are lessons from those first few years that I still leverage today.

Here are four reasons to be an employee before starting your own business.

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1. Gain the Perspective of an Employee

Being an employee gives you perspective when owning your own business. You know what it is like to walk in their shoes and should transfer those lessons to building your startup culture and team member engagement.

Do not just focus on the parts you loved about being an employee. Focus on the parts that were also necessary. You are going to need process and tools to support a culture that generates productivity.

Ultimately, you have to get work done so balance culture with the process.

During your build of culture and process, and as your startup grows, remind yourself periodically what it was like to be an employee.

During this time, learn what it takes to run a company and what parts you are good at and what parts you will need to supplement with talent. It takes a lot of resources when starting your own business – money, time, energy, patience, talent and a hell of a lot of passion.

You then have to run it and make it grow.

To be an entrepreneur is to live, breath, love, and be connected at the soul to your venture.

Keep your eyes and ears open to all of it and take every opportunity to experience each of these functions if possible.

You’ll never understand what it’s like to be an employee until you’ve been one.

owning your own business after working for someone else
Starting Your Own Business: You are going to rely on a lot of talent. Walk in their shoes before owning your own business.

2. Experience and Reputation to Help Start Your Own Business

There are startups after startups that just flop these days. Investors have pulled back on startup funding and have become much more selective in their portfolios.

Those criteria include the founders’ experience and background.

Gain some practical expertise in a connected field and work to progress quickly.

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Allow yourself to take a risk and become comfortable taking a risk in an environment that is not ‘yours’ before owning your own business. Being comfortable with risk builds skills and confidence to launch a startup and new business.

Focus on high-impact and highly-visible contributions during this time to create leadership and trust in not only yourself but also potential investors of your startup.

You will have a portfolio of accomplishments that will give potential clients, investors – and most importantly – YOU – the confidence in your skills, ability, and vision.

3. Networking to Support in Starting Your Own Business

Networking at existing and high-profile companies can have a tremendous impact on your future startup. This includes idea generation, customer acquisition and in some cases it means – finding your co-founders, partners or potential investors.

My first bosses and leaders became the first people I worked with at my first startup. They also helped me develop the most important characteristics of a leader for successful performance.

There are many people I stay in contact with when I was an employee 21 years ago. I have found these connections in my network also continue to teach me new things.

Consistent professional and personal growth are both imperative to owning your own business.

You can’t understand what it’s like owning a business until you’ve done it.

owning your own business kris fannin intelivate career strategy
Owning Your Own Business: Build a secure network while you are working as an employee.

4. Understanding the Efforts of Owning Your Own Business

Whatever effort you do while working for another company, know that you are going to have to put so much more into your startup. Much of this effort comes in the form of emotional connection to the business.

While it is a fantastic feeling, it can be incredibly draining. This is particularly the case at the start with the initial highs, lows, and bumps along the way.

Take your most exhausting day as an employee and amplify that exponentially as an employer. What you will find, though, is the exhaustion as an employer is what I call “energizing exhaustion.”

You must realize it is still very much a part of planning, growing and starting your own business.


Were you an employee before you became an employer? I would love to know what you brought forward in your experience to owning your own business.

Be sure to check out our B2B consulting services and career development solutions. We’ll help your next big idea come to life!