Thursday, August 20, 2009

When Entrepreneurs Become Job Seekers

We all know that the job market is really tough!

As if the competition from new college grads and the recently terminated isn't enough, here comes the competition from another, not so often talked about pool of job seekers - entrepreneurs.

Many small business owners are coming back into the job market and having a hard time connecting. Since the beginning of this year, I have talked to at least 10 business owners, who have had to seek out employment to either keep their own businesses going, closed their businesses all together, or thinking of closing their businesses.

Two of these entrepreneurs were in the construction business. One owned a painting company and the other a small general contracting company. Both have had to lay off workers and have become employees themselves for big box retailers. One owner of an adult day care facility is considering selling a building, at a loss no less, and operating his business from his home, where his teenage daughter can help with customers as he takes on a night job. Another, a property manager, is unable to find renters and need to now himself find a job to augment his investment property mortgage payments. These are a few. There are others and don't think this phenomenon is limited to sole proprietors either.

There is a lot of support out there for the unemployed who want to start a business. This is great news, because that is an excellent option for many. However, there is not much advice for the entrepreneur who has to return to work. Maybe because some see it as a failure? I don't. I see it as a reality.
Here are some of the tips that I have been sharing with entrepreneurs who have to become job seekers to support their families:

1. Sell your skills as a team player in the interview. Many successful entrepreneurs are "take-charge", mavericks who have been used to making all the decisions. Some employers might say they like that in a candidate, but it really is about balance.

2. Show your willingness to learn new things...quickly. As an entrepreneur, you may have become a master in a specific niche. Now that you are looking, you may find that your niche, although good for your business, doesn't have wide demand.

3. Look for opportunity and potential. You may not be able to make the same starting out, as you were when your business was up and running. Instead of looking at just the wages, consider the peace of mind for you and your family as well as benefits like health insurance and retirement accounts.

4. Talk with your vendors and suppliers. They may be able to help or certainly make recommendations. Network also with others in your professional groups such as your union. You may be able to collaborate on jobs.

5. Brush up on your job search strategy and skills. Get a resume together and become familiar with searching for jobs online or networking your way into a job. You networked to land clients before, you will now have to do the same to land a job. Only problem is that you may not have a marketing department to do it for you. Look for free job search resources. I actually met three entrepreneurs at a job search workshop I volunteered to do at my local library about 4 months ago. They were preparing for job search because their revenues were in the tank or heading there. One I am happy to say has landed a great opportunity in sales with a vendor. Two are still looking. Use free resume samples from here!

6. Use headhunters. Entrepreneurs are independent thinkers. No question about that. However, they may have to rely on the expertise of others in this situation.

7. Put yourself in the employer's shoes. Would you hire you? Remember what you looked for in an employee and think about the best way to sell that to potential employers. One of the things you thought about was - "will this employee stay?" Your new potential employer is thinking the same thing. What happens once his/her business picks up? Will I lose them as an employee? This is what the employer is thinking and so you have to prepare an answer.
8. Stay positive and bring your entrepreneurial spirit to the job search. Think creatively about meeting new people, personal branding and the numbers. The more connections you make the better qualified leads you can find. Those problem solving skills as an entrepreneur will serve you now better than ever.

No question that this is a difficult time to find a job.
If you or someone you know have been used to doing the hiring, but now have to be doing the looking, it could be a real challenge. Stay focused yet flexible!


Marianna said...

Good, solid advice - as usual!

Marcia Robinson said...

Thanks Marianna. I am finding more and more people are falling into this category and not much is said for them.


Folarin said...

Hi Marcia,

This is another great post. All around the world, the incidence of former entrepreneurs seeking to re-enter the job market appears to be a rising trend.

I think your seventh point - "Put yourself in the employer's shoes. Would you hire you?" is one that every ex-entrepreneur cum job seeker should pay particular attention to. The employer concerns you have highlighted are real and typically play a significant role in any hiring decision.

Fortunately, the ex-entrepreneur also has something going for him or her that virtually no other category of job seeker can bring to the table - genuine empathy. Having "been there" before, ex-entrepreneurs know what its like to stand in the trenches and fight for survival. If one is able to overcome the usual fears and anxieties, an ex-entrepreneur is often the kind of person to have in one's corner in a fight.

I suggest that prospective employers take advantage of the very strong 'impact skills' and presence that an ex-entrepreneur can deploy and make the most of them. As an employer myself, I know that sometimes a year or even a few months of dynamic service from such a person can be worth years of loyal, but so-so service from "lifers."

My advice to anyone considering hiring an ex-entrepreneur is to borrow a leaf from the motto of the British army's famed S.A.S regiment - "Who dares wins!"

Marcia Robinson said...


I like your comment. Yes..Who Dares Wins"...often enough..I think .(:>


Marcia Robinson said...

Michael Sweat, CEO, Odyssey Systems Consulting Group shared this advice for entrepreneurs who were now job seekers in our discussion on LinkedIn:

"Sometimes a venture just doesn't work out, and I don't hold that against a candidate provided, as Ellen indicated, I believe the individual will be able to adjust to the corporate environment. I do, however, get uncomfortable hiring serial entrepreneurs, because I fear I will invest in them only to be rewarded by their early departure to pursue "the next big thing". I'd recommend, therefore, that you try to put prospective employers at ease regarding your future plans."

Marcia Robinson said...

Ellen Predham, HR Consultant shared the following in our discussion on LinkedIn:

"The biggest factor is for a business owner to understand the corporate environment. In my experience, I never had a problem hiring self employed people who had been in a corporate environment at some time in their career but I did reject one candidate because it was clear from the interview she would have a hard time, if not impossible task, in understanding she did not run the entire show and we all felt she would not be a good fit in a team focused environment."

morren said...

Thank you for such a nice tips and good post. The tips seems to be very much useful for the Job seekers to get the job in this tough job market.

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