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Lessons on Resigning From Your Job and Jumping Into a Wild and Crazy Entrepreneurial Life

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 MARK RUIZ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
 I really didn't know if I had it in me to be an entrepreneur. My DNA didn't seem to say so. My father was a brilliant structural engineer, while my mother was a bank executive who loyally stayed with one company her entire career. Now, while both were absolutely successful in their chosen fields, neither would really be considered textbook entrepreneurial. My schooling was also of a different breeding. I took up Management Engineering in the Ateneo, which - translated into business-speak - really means "climb-up-the-corporate-ladder". Not really the best pedigree for the start-up world. In fact, armed with this very degree, I sought the path more often traveled. I applied and got into a fast-moving-consumer-goods company, where I did fulfill my course's prophecy and work myself up, promotion after promotion. But make a go for an entrepreneurial life, I eventually did.  Armed with nothing but the belief that this was just something I had to try, had to do. The itch, the desire, was just too strong. And as I would eventually say, I had to go "All In" --- resign from the corporate rat-race and try the wild and crazy life of an entrepreneur. Now, three years later, I for the life of me can't imagine ever going back. And while it often feels like my work-hours are now up to 24/7 from 9-to-5, this is my chosen life's path, and i wouldn't trade it for anything else. In fact, I feel so blessed with that decision that I can’t help but pay-it- forward – thus, the motivation for creating and sharing document. If you’re reading this and you’re mulling the decision to make the leap, I hope his can help you gain more clarity. And if you do decide to make a run for it, I’d be more than happy to see you on the other side. Mark Ruiz July 26, 2009
  4. 4. 1 resign for " the right reasons .
 Don’t Leave Because You Hate Your Job. # Leave Because You Know What You Love. When I meet people who want to quit their jobs, I instinctively try to probe for the deeper motivation. Is it mainly because they're unhappy, burned out, and just can't wait to drop their current work? If it's any of those things, then I wouldn't really advise the entrepreneurial life as the wisest move. A discussion with the boss, or a change in company might be a better prescription. You should never leave at an emotionally low point in your career. In fact, never make your resignation an emotional decision, period. Frustration, confusion, and anger can muddle perspective, and it makes you vulnerable to mistakes. Instead, make your resignation a well-discerned and thought-out decision. The brutal fact of the matter is that the entrepreneurial life is not easy. It can be romanticized as the anti-thesis of the corporate grind, yes. But the reality is that it can also be emotionally wrenching. So if you can't handle the pressure of the corporate world, moreso the dramatic roller-coaster of being your own boss. I remember the first time i tried to resign, it was because I was just so damn unhappy. I literally took the first offer that came my way. I was just looking for a way out, and it didn't really matter where that door would lead to. My resolve wasn't that strong, and so my boss at that time was able to talk me out of it. --- So when does it make sense to do resign? If you know that you really want something else, no matter what counter-offer your boss will give you; When you make the decision from a position of strength, rather than from weakness; If your desire to move on stems from a gut-feeling that you want to pursue something bigger than your job, something bigger than you. Ultimately, if the company would grant all your wishes - pay, position, et cetera --- would you still push through and make the leap? If your answer is yes, then it's probably time to go. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  6. 6. 2 know thyself
  7. 7. 2 KNOW THYSELF
 Who are you, really? Entrepreneurship to a large extent is deep knowledge of oneself. Your motivations. Your strengths and weaknesses. What makes you tick. These are questions you'll have to get a clearer handle on. It's most especially important because there's a stark contrast of working in a company and working on your own. In the corporate world, you're buffered by a big organization that knows where it's going and has the resources to go there. The company's vision is a plaque on the wall for all to follow. The guidelines and processes are set, the targets pretty much down-pat. The departments are specialized, playing different roles in the grand design of the organization. Unless you're the CEO, you're a cog in the machine looking over just your portion of the kingdom. But in the entrepreneurial world, you'll strip away all that company-think.  In your own business, the company vision is your vision. There's no HR department to craft your values statement and figure out how to motivate you. In this sense, you’ll have to be absolutely self-motivated. And that will stem from knowing who you are, and knowing what you really want to do. That's why it's critically important to know yourself on a deeper level; because that knowledge will determine why and how you'll steer your ship. Knowing yourself also means taking an objective look at your strengths and weaknesses. You won’t have a big organization so you need to foresee the potholes you’ll come across. When you start out, you just can't make a phone call to your accounting department and ask for last month's financial report. Chances are you are the accounting department. Of course, you'll still endeavor to partner out and find people with the relevant skill- sets. Get an accountant-friend. Hire a marketing person. Yes to this, definitely. But knowing what and who to get will have to start from an intimate picture of self- analysis. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  8. 8. 3 decide where " you want to play
 What do you want to build? While you can probably choose which department to work for in a company, your targets will most likely come from up on high (a.k.a. top management). The overarching strategy, the general areas to compete in, and what the product/ service pipeline should look like -- all these will be a one-sided negotiation between you and your boss. But this is not the case when you start your own business. You yourself will choose what business to get into, and then you yourself will decide what products to bring into the world. In most instances of transitioning, people choose to go into a tried-and-tested business-in-a-box, a.k.a. applying for a franchise. This would most certainly decrease your risk and steepen your learning curve, and is a path you can explore. But unless your ultimate passion is exactly the franchise you're buying, then this is not the kind of entrepreneurship that I'm a big fan of. The kind of entrepreneurship I'm raving about is one that stems from a clear knowledge of knowing where you want to play, knowing what business to get into. Of going for the intersection of the world's big problems, your passions, and the market. It boils down to Miss Universe-type questions --- Where will you invest your life in? What problems are you passionate about solving? What do you think your mission on earth is? Now, knowing your deepest passion and mission immediately might be a tall older. So the practical advice I give is this : sample the buffet. By this, I suggest that you try out as many things that pique your interest. Volunteer profusely for organizations. Attend seminars and workshops. Getting an actual taste of this variety will most likely lead you to where you passions lie. Here’s the truth : if you are really passionate and determined to bring something into the world, then nothing will stop you from making it happen. And it is this passion that will increase your chances of success. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  10. 10. 4 find " partners-in-purpose
 It takes a team to really tango. The fact of the matter is that you can't really choose who you work with in the corporate world. Even worse, you can't choose who your boss will be (although he/she can probably choose you for his/her team). Choices like that just aren't a luxury when you're working for a company.  But the good news is that entrepreneurs can (and should carefully) choose who to work with. There's just that freedom to assemble according to how you see fit. You will chart your own organizational destiny. But this freedom brings with it a certain nuance and direction. You should choose partners-in-purpose. People who rally behind the same cause, are motivated by the same passions, and who earnestly believe in what you are also trying to achieve. These are people who will stick it out not only because they believe in you, but also because they are married to the larger goals. I've been extremely lucky. Too lucky in fact, to be working with absolute partners- in-purpose.  Bam Aquino and I were friends and classmates since high school and we synchronized our entrepreneurial leap, eventually working together on Hapinoy, Rags2Riches, and the WhyNot?Forum. For Hapinoy, the founding board is a combination of leaders from both social development and the business sector, including Rapa and Jim Lopa, Dr. Aris Alip, Manny de Luna, Perry Villa, Franco Sevilla, and Willie Uy. In Rags2Riches, Fr. Javy Alpasa, SJ of course was the nexus point across the founders, including Reese Fernandez (my partner-in-life and R2R President), Memey Mendoza, Ange Benavides, Maan Lim, Timi Gomez, TJ Agulto, and the Nanays of Payatas. The WhyNot?Forum is an advocacy shared with believers Jan Chavez-Arceo, Timi Gomez, Carlo Calimon, Angeli Ko, and Richard Estuesta. And Inovent founder Brian Quebengco and I share the same dream of building a global Filipino consumer tech brand, and it's absolutely amazing that he has assembled an incredibly talented team of Inoventors Jonas Peralta, Peter Can, Jaed del Moral, Nikko Torcita, and Victor Yu. Your enterprises will rise and die with the people you're working with, and the current vibrancy of the startups I’m a part of is proof positive that I'm working with such awesome people. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  12. 12. 5 all in" means ALL IN
  13. 13. 5 ALL IN MEANS ALL IN
 Forget the safety net.# Force yourself to succeed. While I've certainly heard of success stories of people who started their business while they kept their day jobs, my staunch belief is that this is not the best way to go about it. You can't tiptoe yourself from the corporate world into entrepreneurship, and still expect the enterprise to take off. It's just not going to happen. Yes, you can start it on the side while having your 9-to-5, but until you or your business partner take full rein and responsibility over the business and make it YOUR full-time job, it will find itself hard-pressed to progress. You have to fully commit yourself to being an entrepreneur. And in most cases, that commitment means letting go of all safety nets. Case in point : when I resigned, the company I used to work for had an option called a "sabbatical leave". In essence, if things didn't work out with my entrepreneurial move, I could easily come back at a future point-in-time -- at the same work level, with all my previous years of service credited as I head towards my retirement.  Thinking it over, I realized that it would have been detrimental to my determination. And so I took it out as an option. The knowledge that there is a back-up plan, that there is an "abort" button that would bring you back to the safe haven of the corporate life will be absolutely tempting. In fact, there were several times in the first year that I would have gladly pushed that button and went back to safety. But that's exactly the point. Because I didn't have that option, I had NO CHOICE but to stick it out and push through. Even when things seemed to lead nowhere, my business partners and I had to find new ways to move forward. If you have no other choice but to make it work, trust me - you eventually will.  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  14. 14. 6 mind the moolah
  15. 15. 6 MIND THE MOOLAH
 How long will you last? # Balance passion with a pragmatic perspective. While I talk about passion and dreams and purpose in going about THE transition, my left-brain still tingles - spider-sense-like - with the need to also take some practical steps.  For me, the most important thing to take inventory of is your financials. It's not only business that needs cash flow; equally important is your own.  Take a cold, hard look at your personal excel sheet. How much savings do you really have? What are your fixed monthly expenses? What are medium and long- term commitments --- loans, payment schedules, etc? What are things that need to be spent on in the near-term horizon? Now, the hard part. Figure out what you can let go of. With no stable paycheck, assume that you will have to adjust your lifestyle. Do you really need the gym membership? Do you really need to travel as much? Learn the entrepreneurial characteristic of frugality, especially in the early stages. Compute for your Total Savings less Total Payables, which is really your Net Savings. Depending on the kind of business you'll be setting-up, you'll need to set aside your capital requirements. (The computations and financing of that are an entirely different discussion, but let's assume you can compute the whole lump-sum that you'll need to set aside.) Subtract this amount from your Net Savings -- and the number you'll end up with is your personal consumption money. Look at that number. And then compute how long you'll survive assuming you will make absolutely no money from your business. This is your grace period, your breathing space money. When I made my computations, I knew that I would last between 18 to 24 months (of course with a reprogrammed, adjusted-down lifestyle). That really gave me perspective, and at least a working timetable and deadline to transition into a semblance of stability. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  16. 16. 7 learn to sell
  17. 17. 7 LEARN TO SELL
 Selling is the number one skill of entrepreneurs When I was young, the penultimate image of the sales profession was the Electrolux Man - the guy who's gonna "knock on your door" in a clean-pressed shirt and necktie, trying to sell you an electrolux vacuum cleaner. While it certainly seemed humorous then, a couple of decades later I've gained renewed appreciation for the art of selling. In the corporate world, we've been trained to sell one way or another. We have to sell ourselves to get hired, we have to sell our ideas to our peers, we have to sell our proposals to upper management. But in the entrepreneurship world, selling takes on a whole new dimension. For starters, the ability to sell your big idea will determine if you get things off the ground or not. You'll need to convince partners, believers, cohorts to jump on- board, to believe in you when you don't event have anything tangible yet; when all you can do is paint a picture of the future. And when the enterprise gets started, that's when real selling becomes a necessity. Because the reality is that startups are all about cashflow. And you won't get cashflow without the ability to sell, it's really just as simple as that. And i'm not talking about selling concepts, but rather the real exchange of goods and services for cold hard cash. It's actually at this point that you start to imbibe the spirit of the electrolux man. And once the enterprise escapes gravity and moves into growth, you'll realize that you begin to sell at a new plateau. You'll reach a stage that you just can't stop selling your company. Every chance you get, you'll incessantly talk about your business. You will become your enterprise's biggest fan, it's hardest-working salesman. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  18. 18. 8 fail. forward. fast.
  19. 19. 8 FAIL. FORWARD. FAST.
 Make peace with making mistakes The corporate world places an absolute stigma on making mistakes. It's the discussion fodder during the performance review with the boss, directly linked to your chances of getting promoted. Imagine this hypothetical conversation : you miss your target, your new ad campaign flopped, or the production forecast you made is out of tolerance levels; Boss to you : there's the door, you might want to explore working with another company. It's a stark contrast in the entrepreneurial world. Mistakes are not only part of the game, they're necessary players. After all, when you're traversing something new, chances are you have to figure out a lot of things along the way. You definitely won't know all the answers, so a large chunk of what you’ll be doing will be hard-nosed trial and error. But here's the trick. You must - as soon as humanly possible - learn the art of adapting. Your business model might change. Your target customer might change. Your selling tactics might change. Your product and service might change. Almost everything -- save your vision -- will be up for grabs. And how then will you tread these uncertain waters? There's just no other way through but by making mistakes, picking yourself up, and moving along. Either evolve your business or start anew. What's most important is you continue to trudge along this path. From personal experience, it's true -- for entrepreneurs, I can honestly say that the quickest way from Point A to Point B is a crooked line. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  20. 20. 9 welcome to " real world university
 Create your own curriculum The training budget is one of the key investments companies make.  There’s a whole HR department ensuring that the organization is continuously learning, that the proper skills and competencies are being developed, and that individuals at all levels are being equipped with the right know-how. But on the other side of the fence -- in the entrepreneurial start-up, there is no HR department overseeing the learning. There's only you. And you will have to take charge of your own education. This can be an exhilirating thing, your entrance into what I call Real World University. And RWU is not school as you know it. There is no set structure, no fixed reading list, no purely academic professors, no physical institution even. Instead, you create your own curriculum. You build your own library of references. You find your own mentors/teachers. And you will learn more from application as opposed to theory. Building your own curriculum means learning from practical experience. Talking to people. Going through the process. Trying it out. Registering your business, making your own product, immersing yourself in your consumer's shoes. Geek that I am, I of course voraciously gobbled up tons of books and online resources. But I also put in my real world curriculum the following things : 1. Every month, talk to a subject matter expert. 2. Learn to sell, as in the Electrolux knock-on-your door kind. 3. Teach an elective part-time, thus forcing me to learn. 4. Travel to other countries. 5. Network like crazy. Most of these things I eventually did, and so much more. And the learning became crucial in my formation. But it certainly hasn’t ended. I’ve expanded my curriculum as I grow along with my enterprises. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  22. 22. 10 embrace uncertainty
 Can you deal with not knowing? The goal of most corporations is to maximize profit and minimize risk. This essentially means creating conditions that have as much certainty as possible. Financial projections will be hit as forecasted. The market research has iteratively refined the product to be a hit with consumers. The supply chain will work according to the production plan. The salespeople will hit their numbers. The competition will be kept at bay with pre-emptive activities. The employees' workplans are all set, targets have been laid out, and if you do your job well you'll most certainly be promoted. Nice picture. But that is not the reality of what being an entrepreneur is, most especially when you are starting out. The truth is you don't really know. There's just so much uncertainty. Will you really get your business started? Will your product work out the way you planned it? Will your partners stick it out with you? Will you make money or not? Will others have a similar idea and immediately kill yours? Will you make it? Nobody really knows. But if you're willing to deal with the unknown, to embrace it even, then you're on your way to being an entrepreneur. Once you've gained a stomach for risk, then you've taken the first step. Things will not always be clear, but they will gradually be clearer. Problems won't be solved overnight, but with enough determination they will be pruned. There may never be an end-point to this uncertainty and if this is something you can accept, then jump on over to the other side. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  25. 25. ALL IN!# MY RESIGNATION EMAIL/BLOG POST | MAY 27 2006 # So I finally did it. I finally resigned.# I’m about to leave the safe confines of the corporate world and venture into the great unknown. Let go of my stable paycheck and turn my back on a career that’s as tempting as tempting can be.# There’s been a lot of talk and speculation about my resigning, so I guess I owe it to everyone to set the record straight. What really happened, what’s going on, what I’m really up to.# In Hold ‘em Poker, if you want to win big, at some point you’ll have to bet big. If you have absolute certainty in your hand, and your gut just tells you that this pot is yours to take, you go all in – bet the farm, plunk in all your chips, no regrets - win or lose. I’m there. I’m at that point where I can finally say “All In!”# You see, I’m part of this community called Life’s Directions. And, as the name implies, it’s all about people finding out what they to do with their lives, and then hopefully going ahead and doing it. If I truly wanted to “eat our own dog food”, i.e. walk the talk --- then I have no choice but to follow what I’ve discerned as my own Life’s Direction.# And when you come to the realization that what you’re doing now isn’t going to take you where you want to go, then it’s time to change the course as soon as possible. Which in my case, means resigning from the corporate life.# When I turned 27 last September 2004 I remember writing “What to do with this gift called life? It’s a question 1. Few ever ask, 2. Fewer can honestly answer, and 3. Even fewer still who can truthfully say that they actually got up and did something about it. I’d like to believe I belong to the second group. But I’m trying as damn hard as I can to fall into the third.”# Fast-forward one-and-a-half years later, I’m finally jumping onto the third category. All in. ---#
  26. 26. If you believe in something so strongly it practically resonates with your gut, you owe it to yourself to go for it. Jeff Bezos, founder of, calls this his “regret-minimization framework”. Armed with nothing less than an idea and the colossal opportunity which was the Internet, he left his job and went for it. He founded Amazon.# Now, I’m not out to start a multi-billion-dollar company; But like him, I’m just out to pursue my dreams. “All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dust recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.” - T.E. Lawrence! I’ve realized that my long-term vision is to help in my own small way to serve our country. This is something that I have been actually doing self-study into these past few months. What became a topic of interest has become a passion. It has crystallized in me that the best way for me to contribute to the country is by directly creating jobs, as an entrepreneur.# As such, I’ve decided that for the decades of my life to come, I will be focusing on three areas that I feel will have whatever small ripple I wish to make :# 1. Export services / outsourcing – in my simple understanding, if we just rely on businesses that make money circulate within the country, then our country will not develop as fast as it needs to. Thus, I dream of serving foreign markets.# 2. Education – there is really a strong need to build skills of Filipino people in order to prepare them more and more for a globalized world. But there should also be more and more a movement to higher-value skills. If one looks at the spectrum of skills now, we’re providing the brunt, low-value work. We can definitely be more world-class. In the future, I dream of having my own school.# 3. Empowerment of the poor – our country still has one of the highest incidences of poverty. From a business point-of-view, they’re a huge market, the so-called “bottom-of-the-pyramid”. From a human being’s point-of-view, we just have to help. Areas in the future I want to enter here are related to microfinancing and skills- building.# In a line, I just want to build skills for Filipinos in order for them to compete in a globalized world. Put simply, my burning platform is to create jobs.# Now, this is something I’m not going to achieve overnight, maybe not even in the next several years, if ever at all. The more I know, the more I realize how much I don’t know. But the good thing is that this cause will probably keep me preoccupied for years and years to come. It’s a whole life’s work.
  27. 27. Now, I believe in thinking big, but starting small. Baby steps towards a grand vision. So in the next few months, I’ll just be focusing on three things : 1. Setting up a small business aligned to #1 and #2, 2. Volunteer Work, and 3. Self-education/self- training.# On # 3, you see, part of being in Life’s Directions is also a sense of self-awareness through discernment. Strengths and weaknesses, the whole shebang. I’ve looked at stuff I’m not good at, stuff I still need to learn, and these are the things I’ve put on my tasklist.# Some stuff that’s there :# - Discover and get guidance from mentors# - Learn to sell, as in the Electrolux knock-on-your door variety. Be a part-time sales agent.# - Teach an elective part-time# - Travel to other countries# - Network like crazy ---# But lest you think that passion is all it takes to go for it, I caution thee my friend. This is something I’ve studied and prepared for with absolute detail. Passion gets you to leap, but it’s careful and dutiful planning which will give you the confidence to enter into execution phase.# I definitely don’t have a romanticized notion of what I’m about to embark on. No dreams that it will be an easy life, nor safe from any failures of any sort. In fact, years down the line this could very well be the stupidest decision I ever made. But I believe in it strongly enough that maybe looking stupid will be well worth it. As I said in my resignation letter, it’s a cause worth going hungry for.# Let’s revisit the practicalities. I’ve analyzed my financial position and computed my budget for the next two years. With a much recalibrated lifestyle, I’ll probably make do assuming I don’t make any money (talk about worst-case scenario). I’m working with people who I believe are very good partners and essentially want the same thing. I’ve psychologically prepared myself to fail and learn, fail and learn, until I get it right. I’m still relatively young and I’m not feeding anyone. I can still afford to make mistakes.# This hand feels good, and if I lose, I can still play a few more rounds. Why not? Mark Ruiz# May 27 2006
  28. 28. photo credits
  29. 29. life’s work Co-Founder & Managing Director" MicroVentures / Hapinoy (" a social business enterprise empowering microentrepreneurs Founding Partner & Vice-Chairman" Rags2Riches ( a social business enterprise empowering communities through upcycling Director and Chief Marketing Inoventor InoventDesign ( a research, design, and development firm Founder The Why Not? Forum (" an online movement on inspiring filipino ingenuity
  30. 30. ALL IN