No Jacket Required

In the world of entrepreneurship, there is no place to hide.  Where the corporate world might have allowed you the cover of a jacket and tie, a shiny pair of shoes, and an impressive title, entrepreneurship strips you naked, and leaves you with nothing but yourself  and your wits – or whatever it is that you bring to the table.

Whether it is your ability to build teams, to manage people, to develop exciting and compelling visions, to strategize and energize, or your gifts in developing systems and processes, becoming an entrepreneur opens you up to the true test of your talents.

When you become a leader in the corporate world, you acquire a type of “coat of many colors” if you will.  It is something shiny and fabulous, something that other people covet; something that shows that you have the favor of a higher power – And, as with the biblical character of Joseph and his coat, it is something which conveys that longed-for attribute – your specialness!  Coats of many colors come in many forms: excellent perks, numerous assistants, influence, access and extended reach. Who wouldn’t want all of that?

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To be fair, I realized at some point that for the amount of risk and responsibility one takes on as, say a CEO, you really need to be rewarded monstrously to make it worth your while.   So yes – your coat of many colours may be well deserved, but it is never who you are. You are you, and your position is something separate.   And understanding that difference is an important part of transitioning from corporate leadership to entrepreneurship. In many instances leaders stay in positions they should long since have relinquished because they can’t bear to be without all of the trappings of success. Life without the title and the perks becomes unimaginable

When you suddenly have to pick up your own dry cleaning, scan your own documents, deliver your own packages, its can be a shock to the system – a system that had become accustomed to the “faka lo… tata lo…”  hand-waving issuing of orders that is part of executive life.

When you can no longer ride on the coat tails of your job title, or the strength of the brand that the company you work for has built; then you realize the importance of having a strong personal brand.  Once you have shed the jacket that representing a corporation or even an NGO covers you with, your personal brand will reveal what your personal power really is.

Who is still going to return your calls when you no longer have a title?  Who will create time in their busy schedule to see you?  Who will entertain the telling of your dream when it is no longer a part of their own career trajectory? If these questions leave you cold, then its time you started investing in the building of your personal brand.

Because one day you might want to trade in the title you hold for a ticket to freedom. It’s a rocky trip on the entrepreneurship train, and you’ll need to come as you are – no jacket required!

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