Entrepreneur Katie Rock on the corporate work habits you’ll need to unlearn if you want to succeed in business

1000 Stories contributor Katie Rock, Activyst
Katie Rock, Founder of Activyst

When starting a company after working in the corporate world, it’s comforting to think, ‘I have experience in business. I’ve got this.’

While it’s true there are some transferable skills, I quickly learned after starting my own company that many work habits I had so diligently developed in the corporate world don’t apply as an entrepreneur. In fact, they can be detrimental if not kept in check.

Starting my company has been a painful process at times of replacing old habits with ones more suited to creating progress within a small start-up business.

Below are the tips to ensure that you don’t get in your business’ way by applying corporate principles in a small business setting.

  • Say No … A Lot In my previous career, I was practically required to say “yes” to all requests. Saying yes meant I was committed, reliable, and a team player. “Yes” garnered me glowing reviews and positions on the best projects.But as an entrepreneur wearing multiple hats per day, saying yes to every task simply isn’t possible. If you do try the old yes routine, you won’t be able to focus on priorities, you’ll end up drained, and your business will flounder. The cure? Relentlessly say ‘no’ to all but your main priorities. “Yes” should be a conscious decision to create progress, not a default.
  • The Goal is Progress, Not Perfection. In a big company, the goal is often getting your project as close to perfect as possible. You do – sometimes seemingly endless – rounds of work until the person in charge deems it’s at 100% and ready to go. This is fine if you have lots of time, people, and resources to get it to “perfect”.[pullquote] Determine the high-impact items to focus on, and accept “good enough” for everything else.[/pullquote]
    However, that’s not the case in most small businesses and getting everything to perfect is not possible. If you’re a perfectionist, this hurts… deeply. But the longer it takes you to accept this, the slower your business will move, making it less likely to succeed.Determine the high-impact items to focus on, and accept “good enough” for everything else. It may drive you crazy, but I’m betting everyone else will think “good enough” is just great. And doing something (even imperfectly) is better than not doing it.
  • Quality of People Matters as Much (Or More Than) Quality of Work. In staffing projects in my previous corporate setting, we said things like “she is an excellent writer” or “he has great attention to detail.” We took for granted that people would complete their work, because if they didn’t, they would get bad reviews (or get fired). So, we tended to focus on the quality of a person’s output more than the quality of the person himself.As a business owner, you often rely on other business owners (web designers, manufacturers, etc.) to do work for you. Guess what? They’re their own bosses. So if they don’t want to do something as you asked or at all, they don’t! Trust cannot be overstated. When trust is lacking, there are blown deadlines, scrambles to find a Plan B, and stalls in progress.On the other hand, when there is a strong trusting relationship, a huge amount gets done and work flows smoothly. Prioritize trust as a factor in your work relationships by reaching out to your network for referrals, checking references, getting to know a person and her work style up front, and signing contracts. This protects your business, and will likely make work more fun than you ever thought it could be.


Are you a woman who has started a business? Submit your story and it will appear on our site. We will use it to find candidates for our 2013 filming season and for blog posts.