Late winter 2003 was a very exciting time for me. I was in the middle of my junior year at the University of Regina and was accepted as an intern for eight months with Shell Canada. Shell was the most prestigious company to work for in the university’s co-operative education program, so I was extremely proud and excited to have been selected. My internship at Shell was both fun and educational. At the end of the term, I was fortunate enough to be offered a full-time job. I have been with Shell as an employee for eight years now. However, I feel that it is time for me to make a change.
Initially, the company had a productive and social work culture. In 2006, however, Royal Dutch Shell purchased Shell Canada. Over the next few years, the small national company was integrated with one of the world’s largest organizations. Unfortunately, the collaborative and interpersonal culture at Shell Canada was replaced with globally dispersed teams, early morning and late night teleconferences, and extremely low productivity. I can honestly say that I am no longer happy.
I spent time during the last semesters of my MBA pondering what I should do once I graduate. I learned through the experiences that I previously mentioned that I do not enjoy working for large globally dispersed companies. The more I thought about this, I questioned whether or not I would be happy working for anyone else other than myself. I realized that money will not buy me happiness, and that it is much more important spending my time working on something that I feel passionate about than working at a job solely for the pay. The IT division of a super-major oil and gas company does not motivate me.
What does excite me is the thought of running my own business. I like the idea of having the power to run things the way I feel is best, instead of how someone else has arbitrarily dictated. I also like the idea of being able to create and grow something. I want to be able to take an idea and pull all the necessary pieces together to make it successful. I want to create something that has meaning instead of just being another drone in the corporate hive. I do not want to be limited by anyone or anything.
The core value of my business will be face-to-face collaboration amongst a highly trusting team. I learned from my experience at Shell that working in an environment where people are not able to interact with each other in the same location is not what I enjoy. My most enjoyable professional experiences occurred when a group of people worked together in person to resolve problems. Not only did this work style improve the speed of solving the problem, it also created a fun and energetic environment. I believe that people who genuinely enjoy working together will be the most productive and creative, so I want to create this environment in my business.
I believe that I have many strengths to offer the company that I create. I am consistent, analytic, disciplined, deliberative, and intelligent. I can analyse problems, research the relevant information, and make solid business decisions. However, there are a number of areas where I can improve. I believe that my main issue will be my ability to cope with uncertainty. By nature, I am a risk-averse person. I also struggle with anxiety, particularly in areas where I feel that I do not have control. Over the last few years, I learned how to cope with my anxiety through a variety of techniques. During my time in the MBA program, I learned that one cannot achieve great things without taking some risk.
I am aware of the next steps that I need to take in my journey. First, I need to complete the MBA program, which I am excited to do in late July. Second, I must focus on founding my company. I will create a business plan that identifies the product or service that I will offer, who my likely customers are, and what resources are necessary to create the product or perform the service. Third, I will aggressively network with classmates, colleagues, and other entrepreneurs. I shall seek out potential co-founders, suppliers, partners, and clients.
To achieve my goals, I will need a network of people to support me, and am confident that the network that I presently have will meet my needs. Firstly, I have my girlfriend Kelly and best friend Matthew. These two individuals are a constant source of encouragement in my life. I will rely heavily on them during the tough times of launching a business. Secondly, my coach Jamie provides wisdom, perspective, and focus. He will help me clear the noise from my life so that I can focus in on the activities I need to perform to be successful. Finally, I have established many close relationships with my classmates in the MBA program and in the local start-up community, many of which are looking to start their own companies. Not only will they be potential customers and suppliers, but also they can share their experience and knowledge in building successful companies.
The most sage piece of advice that I ever received about entrepreneurship is, “the difference between entrepreneurs and everyone else is that entrepreneurs take the leap”. This is exactly where I am in my life. After two and a half years of school, I feel that I am a very different person from when I started. My goals and dreams have evolved from status, money, and corporate-life to innovation, collaboration, and independence. I will no longer sit back and wish that I had the courage to make this kind of change in my life. On September 1, I will take that leap.