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For the last 10 years I was a very active entrepreneur, as a founder or taking part in other start ups. Even though I got some money and clients, I decided to move on and find a job at another company.

I am not sure if this is the right decision (closing my own business and work for a company), but it is hard to find clients, therefore money. It is an unsure environment.

On the other hand, the job position I was called for an interview is a "safe" one, extremely interesting and challenging.

There is a question they will ask me and I want to answer it as good as it gets, correctly.

You had a very active past with startups and you had your own business. Why do you want to close them all and work for us?

What should I say, and what should I avoid saying?

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3  
Two words: Taxes :). Seriously, if you're the kind of person who hates paperwork, like me, it's really appealing to have someone else make sure they get paid. –  Amy Blankenship May 12 at 22:13
9  
True, but that would just make him look stupid for not hiring an accountant or showing the leadership initiative to delegate it to somebody else. –  user19432 May 12 at 22:30

8 Answers 8

It is an unsure environment.

That's a pretty good reason right there. You can discuss your desire to move into a more established business with more stability.

However, don't stop there. A better answer is to use that as a way to start talking about the accomplishments you've had while being a business owner. Some or all of things you've done.

As a business owner you've:

  • Figured out way to create value for your customers
  • Managed customer relationships
  • Met customer deadlines
  • Made business decisions
  • Done the financial work(taxes, payroll, paid vendors, etc.)

By mentioning your desire for stability and accomplishments I believe you'll leave a better impression with the potential employer.

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@Fataoulas Giving a b.s.-free answer can be viewed as refreshing by some. If nothing else, your experience with start-ups gave you experience with failure and showed you where you strengths are. That's not a small thing. –  user19432 May 12 at 22:26

One of the things I told my current employer when I was in this position several years ago was, "While I love being able to make every decision, it was exhausting having to make every decision. I got to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. It would be nice to be able to spend some time mastering a skill (or a smaller set of skills) rather than doing everything poorly."

Doing the paperwork for things like taxes, designing and programming the web site, calling the clients, and making the product is a lot of disparate things. Being able to concentrate on a coherent set of tasks (even if there are many of them) will be refreshing for you.

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Be frank with the interviewer. Running a business (and doing all the footwork) is a lot of responsibility. You sound as if you're driving yourself crazy right now just trying to get some work, and that doesn't even scratch the surface on the other part which is doing the work once you get it.

Inform the interviewer that you're interested in narrowing your focus to whatever your specialty is, and want to limit how much you are involved in running things all the way from the top. It's perfectly fine.

Best regards.

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6  
To run a successful business, you often spend much of your time in the administration of the business (finding clients, doing bookkeeping and accounting, managing your website, etc.) rather than participating in the creative aspects that interested you to begin with. A lawyer working or someone else, for example, gets to just practice law, while a lawyer who has her own business has to invoice and chase after payables, manage staff, find new clients, etc. I think a lot of entrepreneurs end up missing their craft. –  MJ6 May 12 at 23:09

After double checking with you in the Comments section to make sure that I am reflecting your thoughts accurately, this put-together answer should take care of your question:

"I had a lot fun with startups and my own business, I learned a lot and I got to see business situations from all angles. The only trouble with owning a business is that I don't own the business, the business owns me. Actually, my clients own me. If someone calls me on a Friday at 5PM and if he wants me to get it done for him on Monday at 9AM, I can't say no to him. Not unless I want to lose his business as a regular customer and not unless being homeless and hungry fulfills my sense of adventure. Again, it was fun, it was exciting but the wear and tear got to me"

"The nice thing about working for you is that you're handling a lot of the headaches that used to be mine as an owner. I get to focus on what's interesting and challenging while you handle everything else that used to keep me up at night, like making payroll and paying the bills"

"Don't get me wrong. It was fun. I had a great time. I would wake up in the morning not knowing what kind of doo-doo was waiting for me to step into, and it was exciting to manage on the fly these issues that popped whenever out of nowhere. But eventually, the excitement and the unpredictability were too much of a good thing. Even taking sick days was something I didn't dare do. I couldn't take vacations, I was chained to my business"

"You have no idea how much I love having a predictable schedule and having sanity back in my life. Working for you, I get the challenges, I get the excitement without the craziness that's part of the package of owning my own business :)"

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If you want the one-sentence summary: "The reason I want to work for you is that I want to have the fun and excitement of meeting challenge after challenge without the baggage - and sometimes garbage - that comes with owning my own business" –  Vietnhi Phuvan May 12 at 23:01

There are thousands of different reasons that small businesses fail. However, there are literally billions of people on this planet that have never even tried.

I've been there. Years ago I closed a small business and reentered the regular workforce for a period of time. My reasons where simple: my paycheck had to get back to some type of regularity. I was doing consulting and some months I made a lot of money and others I didn't have a thing to do. This was absolute hell on my personal finances - and family.

Anyone that's been in business for awhile knows that you get paid when the clients decide to cut that check. Sometimes clients don't pay, sometimes they pay really really late. If you are the business owner that is a huge personal risk.

However, FTE's don't have to deal with that and instead can just focus on their job ... unless they are in accounts receivable.

Quite frankly I give preference to hiring people that have tried, and failed, to run a small business than ones that have never even tried. Of course, someone who has tried to run their own business is far more likely to try it again. Which is the spirit that I'm after for mine.

The point of all of this is that closing your business is not an indication of true failure on your part and you shouldn't treat it as such during an interview.

One possible answer:

I need better financial stability.

Anyone that has ever gone down this path will understand completely.

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I am not sure if this is the right decision of closing my own business and work for a company, but it is hard to find clients, therefore money. It is an unsure environment.

What you are saying here is exactly what you should say.

Stability. Job security. The ability to focus on the core of what I do instead of having to split time between the sundry issues that surround running a business. Be a part of a larger team with similar aspirations & goals. Tax benefits as well since being your own boss typically means losing a large chunk of your net income.

Also place a time-frame on when you were an entrepreneur. If you did it for—let’s say—5 years, your answer to a prospective new employer can simply be, “I did my best for 5 years & am happy with what I achieved, but the stability of a standard 9-5 workplace is more appealing to me at this time.”

There is no shame in saying any of that because the reality is most employers know all too well how much work running a business can entail outside of the core business functions.

I assure you your desire for a more stable environment is not unique. So don’t think that looking for stability is a negative.

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A friend of mine had been an IT enterpreneur for almost 4 years. After that, he decided to give it up and move to any well-paid and safe position in a big company. The ulterior motive was to get paid persistently without any risk of losing any big part of his income. But what he actually said was what interviewers (HR, head of sales, COO) wanted to hear. The reasons of leaving his business and seeking for a full-time employment were:

  • To gain some money from selling niche business being led before application. It isn't popular to raise a brand and then sell it, but it works.
  • To gain some specific and narrow experience at selling complicated IT systems and making customers from medium and large businesses.
  • And, furthermore, to get into a new team and disrupt things he got used to before.

He didn't say anything about problems with being responsible for too much or with developing niche market, since those aren't what mattered. But anyway, it's not a good idea to talk about problem because you may considered a bad risk-taker or a passive person, which often don't fit to the open position.

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Tell them you failed.. hehe I'm in the same situation as you, many startups over the last 15yrs and have one now that I have stuck with and got to a decent stage but its all still a gamble to me and I am no where near making it, my product is in the market and selling ok.

I have thought about chucking it all in many times. What I would say to a prospective employer is the truth, I would tell them that, I don't think I have the abilities to really make it as an entrepreneur and that I would be best off using my skills as a bit part of a company.

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1  
“Tell them you failed.. hehe” That flippant attitude might work well in a the dude-bro boiler room of a startup but is just plain obnoxious in the real world. –  JakeGould May 13 at 15:43

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