Breaking free from the corporate rat race

After nearly two decades in the corporate world, Alan Smith, found himself yearning for the opportunity to escape the constraints of the corporate daily grind, to regain precious time with his family

Breaking free from the corporate rat race

The Scotsman’s exploration into business ownership led to him launching his ActionCOACH franchise in April 2014. Now he is earning more than he could have dreamt in his previous career whilst really enjoying the difference he is making in his local business community. Alan gives his advice for those considering leaving the corporate rat race to start their own business.

Making the leap from a corporate career to becoming an entrepreneur is an exciting but daunting prospect. The shift involves not just changing what you do but also altering how you think, plan and approach challenges. But there are some ways you can ease that transition…

Leverage your corporate experience 

Just because you’re leaving the corporate world doesn’t mean you should discard the skills and experiences you’ve amassed. These can prove invaluable in your own business. You’ll have great contacts to share the news of your new business with – your circle of influence – and think about the organisational structures you’ve worked within in the past which inform how you develop your team in the future.

Financial awareness is key 

Without the cushion of a regular salary, financial management becomes even more critical. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of how much you’ll need to start and run the business until it becomes profitable – cash flow is the lifeblood of a new business so keeping overheads low until you build a steady income stream is essential.

Embrace continuous learning 

The business landscape is always changing, and what worked in a corporate setting might not always apply to your new venture. Now it’s up to you to stay up to date on industry trends, technological advancements and changes in regulations. Make it a habit to keep learning, not just through keeping your finger on the pulse but by regularly asking for feedback from customers, peers and mentors to understand areas of improvement. Mistakes and failures are all part of the entrepreneurial journey so don’t fear them – take each setback as a learning opportunity.

Why investing in a franchise could be your best bet

Each of my three points above have been supported by my choice to invest in a franchise brand. It’s not just the proven business model providing a blueprint for success, the support network has been invaluable in helping me make the transition from employee to business owner. 

Where my journey began

Earning a degree in economics and management, propelled me into a variety of roles at PepsiCo, Cadbury and Mondelez International. Yet the desire to go it alone persisted. To fulfil my curiosity, I participated in an event focusing on establishing my own business. Initially, I contemplated going into the food retail sector, leveraging my industry experience but nothing struck a chord. Despite this, one brand managed to captivate my interest – the event’s sponsors, ActionCOACH. 

No stranger to business coaching in my career, I often had my own executive coach. With that experience, the more I researched ActionCOACH, the more I believed that this was destined to be my next step. 

As I looked into ActionCOACH further, it’s attractiveness grew – I could see the potential rewards, both financially and personally. Franchising bridged the gap as I was unsure about starting a business from scratch. I’d have my own business but with all the necessary support at my fingertips. 

ActionCOACH’s 14 Points of Culture really sealed my decision. These core values aren’t just words; they were echoed by all the team throughout my due diligence process, and you could see how important they were to their franchise partners.

Becoming a coach

I regard my 10 days at ActionCOACH University as life-changing. The training was demanding, yet very thorough. I can’t recall any aspect of the business world that was left untouched. The training wasn’t just about learning how to do business or become a coach, it helped me become a better person. It directed me to see things from fresh angles, revealing a world beyond the corporate sphere, just waiting for me to explore.

Nevertheless, I understood there would be challenges ahead. Upon returning home, I dedicated most of my time to learning. ActionCOACH’s vast library of knowledge proved decisive as I got up to speed bringing my first clients into the business. The support through the transition between training and practice was crucial, it was such a great learning curve. It really has helped not only my business to go from strength-to-strength but me as a person too.

I still love to interact with and learn from ActionCOACH’s daily webinars. Plus, meeting colleagues at our signature events, like BizX, is another great benefit of being a franchise partner. You can never stop learning to better you and your business – ActionCOACH really gives you the infrastructure to do so.

Climbing the ladder

Offering both group and one-to-one coaching, my ActionCOACH franchise grew consistently. More recently, since February 2021, the business has expanded from 23 to 31 clients, generating a monthly client income of £27k – a 43% growth. A significant factor in this success was my commitment to continue coaching local businesses throughout the pandemic.

COVID showed how much people needed a business coach. It felt great to be a beacon of hope for my clients. Together we worked on solutions which showed there was light at the end of the tunnel for their businesses.

Having been an Action Coach for nearly a decade, I’ve noticed a transformation in people’s perspectives on business coaching. From launching in 2014 to now, one of the biggest changes for me is a better general understanding and appreciation of business coaching.

I think people have become more aware of the benefits of coaching. In my view, it’s because of a combination of the public becoming more familiar with the concepts of business coaching through exposure in the media and a shift into emphasising personal and professional growth. 

Recognition and rewards

My thriving ActionCOACH business has not only expanded substantially, it has also garnered acknowledgement for its accomplishments, securing awards across various categories including winning the award for Best Client Ratings for Scotland for 6 consecutive years and the Scottish Coach of the Year in both 2022 and 2023. 

ActionCOACH really excels at recognising and rewarding its members. It’s validation for the hard work you put in but also shows that you’re helping your local community. Winning these awards makes you feel very proud, but I’m prouder still to be giving back.

Setting my sights on the future, using the connections made through my ActionCOACH business, I’ve identified an investment opportunity that will support my family long-term, creating space for more priceless time with them. 

Over time I’ve become good friends with many clients. One of whom is an expert in the Edinburgh property market. This relationship has developed and has led to opportunities to co-invest with him.

Approaching the 10th anniversary of my ActionCOACH franchise, I’ve accomplished my initial objectives of business ownership. Assisting hundreds of people in my local business community, I’m reaping both financial rewards and friendships, alongside having greater freedom for both me and my family – a luxury I simply could not have envisaged when stuck in the daily grind of my corporate career. 

For more information about finding fulfilment through growing businesses and changing people’s lives like Alan, visit ActionCOACH.

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