When to Leave Your Corporate Job to Start Your Own Business
1WeekKC is fast approaching (May 20 through May 27, to be precise). This signature week of entrepreneurship is your invitation to connect with business-building resources in Kansas City, network with other entrepreneurs and learn from some of the best in KC business.
One of those experts is Joelsette Hernandez-Jones, founder and CEO of Pharos Partners Inc. She will be presenting at Start + Scale Business Day, a full day of connections, knowledge and networking that’s perfect for anyone looking to start or grow a business in Kansas City.
Below, Joelsette shares what she’s learned by leaving a corporate job to start her own business.
What do you do and what do you enjoy about the entrepreneurial community in KC?
I own Pharos Partners, Inc.—an IT staffing firm that places accomplished IT professionals in contract or permanent positions to help our clients deliver products, services and technology enhancements.
With regards to the community, it’s the people. People are willing to help. People are willing to share. They are willing to make connections for you. It’s an exciting time to be in KC with all the growth in entrepreneurship currently occurring in the area.
Tell us more about yourself.
I am an unexpected entrepreneur. After more than 15 years of IT experience in multiple roles ranging from managing multimillion dollar projects to vendor management, I never expected to start my own information technology (IT) contracting firm. However, after starting part time in August 2014, I decided to jump in full time just eight months later in March 2015.
While not working on Pharos Partners Inc., I’m the mother of four children ranging from a freshman at K-State down to a second grader in the Blue Valley School District. When not shuttling the kids around to school and other activities, I like to travel with my family. Most recently, we took a road trip to Washington, D.C., over spring break as it is my husband’s goal for us to visit all 50 states and their state capitols.
You left a corporate job to start a business of your own. Tell us about that decision.
I had recently accepted a new position with a large corporation that I’d had my eye on for several years. I was excited to get into a new industry and begin my new journey, but just eight weeks in, I realized the position was similar to previous roles. My opportunity to learn new skillsets was going to be limited. I wanted more!
I had come across this quote, “If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” (Tony Gaskins)
I started to ask myself, was it more important for me to deliver their projects, or was it time to start my own firm and accomplish my dreams?
The now or never moment came when I was asked to lead a large, complex effort with stringent timelines. The time was now…
What did you learn by jumping in the deep end and how can you help other entrepreneurs avoid some common obstacles?
I actually waded in. I worked part time for the first eight months gathering info and doing research. I networked by establishing relationships for potential clients and mentors as well as joining various local organizations including Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.
On the business side, I evaluated the diverse business certification process, assessed the financial aspects of starting a business, attended classes and seminars on marketing and social media, and so on. Looking at the holistic aspects of starting my own business while still working my corporate job allowed me to be better informed when I did make the jump.
On the flip side, I had quickly realized that “wading” wasn’t going to get me where I wanted. I had to fully take the plunge and cut the lifeline I had with my corporate job. I had to be fully focused on Pharos or else I was not going to be successful.
This focus is an aspect of time management. As an entrepreneur, you frequently start out as an “army of one”. You are trying to manage consultants, clients, marketing, business development, financials, payroll and all the other aspects of a business. My experience as a project manager was a big help here as I was very methodical at setting goals, establishing timelines and breaking down the necessary tasks to achieve these goals so that I could follow through on them.
Another aspect of time management applies to networking—I was (and still am) barraged by opportunities to attend meetings, meetups, seminars, coffee, lunches, etc. I had to carefully prioritize the specific ones that I had time for and that I thought would be the most beneficial. That meant I had to say no sometimes.
What is essential to a solid business plan and how do you allow that plan to be a living document instead of a crutch?
After realizing I wanted to start my own business, I spent the fall and winter interviewing people and networking while still working full time. I met with people early in the morning, over the lunch hour, after work, nights and weekend. Some were former co-workers or acquaintances. Some were prospective clients while others were prospective consultants or business partners. I had two very specific questions to answer: was there room in the market for yet another contracting firm, and, if there was, what could I do differently?
The answer to these two questions helped me develop my business plan. They are also questions that I consider in my daily business today as I have to explain to prospective clients why they need Pharos in addition to the other firms and why we are different than the competition. The ongoing answers to these questions direct me as I keep my business plan fresh and flexible.
What traits do you see in successful entrepreneurs? Can these traits be learned?
When I look at some of my fellow founders, I see people that were willing to take risks and try something new. I see them as “go getters” who aren’t willing to settle. They’re willing to learn and try out new things.
They’re also not afraid to ask: for advice, for new business, for information, for help. They realize that the worst thing that can happen is someone will say no, and when that happens, they move on.
I think that if a prospective entrepreneur uses the resources available here in town—KC SourceLink, the local Chambers of Commerce, Kauffman Foundation, Central Exchange, and many others—they can learn everything that they’ll need to be successful. Sometimes, they just need the nudge to get started.
Why do you choose to do business in Kansas City?
I am a third-generation Kansas Citian having grown up on the West Side near downtown. Most of my family lives in the area and family is one of my foremost priorities.
I’ve seen ups and downs here in KC and want to help keep it on the current upswing. As I’ve spent time over the past two years networking and getting involved, my commitment has only deepened.
As a Hispanic woman working in IT, I want to help women, especially Latinas, be successful in the STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine) fields. I feel like Kansas City has given a lot to me and I want to give back now that it is my turn.
For more great advice and insight from Joelsette, be sure to join us at Start + Scale Business Day, hosted by KCSourceLink, at 1Week KC. Also, be sure to check out all of the awesome multicultural entrepreneurs featured here on our website.