Choosing to quit your job and launch your own business is a risk, but one made easier if you start up in an industry where you already have knowledge, connections and credibility. In that sense, the company you're leaving can become a key asset in your new venture -- or an obstacle to your success.
Here's a look at how you can turn your former employer into an asset that will help your new business succeed.
You want your company to know that while you worked for them, you did your best to serve the company’s interests. In practical terms, this means not talking to the company’s clients, suppliers, and fellow employees (other than your co-founders) about your new venture until you have officially left. If management hears about your new venture from an existing customer, there is a high probability that your relationship will end on terrible terms. Before you leave, you should limit your activities to researching, planning and securing funding.
Share your plan when you leave.
When the owners and managers of your current employer hear that you are leaving to start a company in the same industry, they may be worried that you plan to steal their customers or provide an identical service. While there may be some overlap, your current employer will likely have a different value proposition or customer focus. Explaining your plan to your boss and possibly a senior executive or owner, gives you an opportunity to make them feel less threatened by your new venture. They still may feel that you are doing something competitive, but your actions will demonstrate a high degree of integrity. Also, if they have a strong objection to your plan and believe that they have the legal right to prevent your new business, it gives you an opportunity to work out a friendly compromise.
Offer to help with the transition.
You’re probably playing an important role for your existing employer and your departure may leave a hole that will take time to fill. When you leave, you can offer to complete certain tasks or handle limited responsibilities for a certain period time, as a paid consultant. While they might not choose to take you up on the offer, it sends the message that you care about the firm and want to continue to have a good relationship going forward.
Let them know how they can help.
One major benefit of leaving on good terms is that you can ask your old employer to help you. They may be in a position to provide your company with references, refer you clients, or provide you with favorable vendor terms.