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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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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
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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
    
@rocinante I agree –  Outjohn May 12 at 22:31
    
This is probably too short to make an answer, but the phrase "family reasons" goes a long way in situations like this. –  Carson63000 May 13 at 1:56

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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Thank you for your answer. So you suggest me that a key is to make use of the unstable future with all this economical crisis that drives me to want something safer for me. The experience I gathered from my own things are nice but how to emphasize that quitting my business to a safer job does not make me a person who don't try much? –  Outjohn May 12 at 22:09
    
Stability is a positive only if the employer views it as such. It can also be an indication of unwillingness to take risk or put in the leg-work necessary to make their business grow. You can come off looking very bad indeed if the real reason you want a job is because your start-ups tanked or almost tanked.1/2 –  user19432 May 12 at 22:16
    
2/2 Given the information in the question, I don't think there is a good answer to any of this - especially if the companies you want to work for and your start-ups are in the same line of business. I don't think you can b.s. your way through this question with HR friendly jargon like Viet is suggesting. You have to highlight the genuine reason you want to make this change, and what you think you bring to the table. –  user19432 May 12 at 22:18
    
@rocinante Thank you for your reply. As I think it and this is the reason I asked for help, I can not find a good answer without a drawback though... –  Outjohn May 12 at 22:23
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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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Thank you, I think that this is something @rocinante would approve :) –  Outjohn May 12 at 22:35
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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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Thank you very much for your answer. I really appreciate it. I forgot to mention though that the job has a lot of responsibilities, may be more than what I had. I will be under a manager though but I have to coordinate other sections of the company and give directions. But it has a fix work schedule, something I do not have now. But is the mention to "fix schedule" not appropriate? Because if you level up to the company you go to a more like a manager position... –  Outjohn May 12 at 22:01
    
Compared to the crazy 7x24 schedule you had as an owner, I'd say that everything other schedule looks stable and predictable :) And as a result of owning a business, you learned over the years to LUV predictable and stable schedules :) Am I right? –  Vietnhi Phuvanmail May 12 at 22:04
    
Nice point, but what if he asks "so you did not have a good time management for your self or a working schedule?" –  Outjohn May 12 at 22:11
    
I'd say "It was fun. I had a great time. I never waking up up in the morning in what kind of doo-doo was waiting for me and it was exciting to manage these issues whenever they came up. 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" How is that? :) –  Vietnhi Phuvanmail May 12 at 22:25
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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 Phuvanmail 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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“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
    
NO, Adam!!! Respectfully -- this is a LOUSY approach. Failure happens, yes indeed. But I'd never hire somebody who was bringing the energy of his/her failure into the interview process. Admitting that one can use more experience in the field is one thing, but developing a can't-do attitude and then sharing that with a prospective employer is a deal killer. –  codenoire May 13 at 18:07
    
Maybe... but it is what I will do if I seek a job in a company and give up on being an entrepreneur. –  Adam Ridley May 13 at 23:59

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