The best beginning to your new business is a good ending at your old employer. Follow these nine tips for a successful break with your soon-to-be former job.
Thinking of quitting your job to start your own venture? You need to plan a smooth exit. And that means resigning as graciously as possible.
You may have been planning to say something along the lines of “take this job and shove it,” but that would be a big mistake.
I’ve been in business for a long time, and I’ve seen some great and not-so-great resignations. You need to be especially mindful of your conduct if you’re resigning to start your own business. For a classy departure, keep in mind these nine tips:
1. Know when it’s time to make the break
You’re rightfully excited about your new venture and probably working on your business in your off hours. But don’t work on it while you’re at your day job. That’s stealing from your employer. Once you find that your new business is occupying your thoughts during the day, start making plans to say goodbye.
2. Resign the right way
Just craft a short, two- to three-sentence letter that gives two weeks’ notice of your resignation. Make sure to show your gratitude for the position and the opportunities you’ve had. Don’t use the resignation letter to announce or talk about your business startup.
3. Resist the counteroffer
Even if your employer offers you more money to stay, kindly turn it down. You’re starting your own business — that’s why you’re leaving, remember? Once you’ve made that decision and given your notice, this chapter is over. Time to move on.
4. Keep working hard until the very end
Once your employer receives your resignation letter, keep working your tail off. Remember that your employer’s life will be disrupted temporarily while looking for your replacement — you just made her life more complicated today. So go above and beyond at work, and if the boss asks you to stay on past the two weeks, help her out if you can. You want to protect your good reputation and leave the best possible impression. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
5. Get your stuff together …
Don’t leave behind a big mess for the next person. If you haven’t been organized up to this point, get organized now. Document what you do and how you do it, organize your files, and finish up any projects that are dangling. In short, make it as easy as possible for the next person to come in and pick up where you left off.
6. … but don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you
This should go without saying, but resist the urge to load up on office supplies, clients, or coworkers.
Commit the first sin, and you may land in jail (or at least leave everyone wondering why you just had to swipe that tape dispenser). If you steal your clients or lure away your coworkers, you will start your new venture with a tarnished reputation and plenty of ill will. (Now, if a coworker decides to leave, that’s certainly his prerogative. But don’t recruit people and don’t help them leave.) Take my advice: Start out fresh with your own stuff and your own people.
7. Don’t trash-talk your employer
Word will travel — there’s no stopping that. So take control of the message by saying only positive things before, during and after your departure. Just do your part to create goodwill in your office. If HR wants to conduct an exit interview, just say nice things. (And if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.)
8. Say a proper goodbye
On your last day, don’t just vanish into thin air — give one last professional goodbye. Shake hands with everyone, including your boss, and tell them how nice it was to work alongside them. Thank them for the opportunity and wish them the best. Be sure to share your contact information just in case someone needs to reach you.
9. Put away your lighter (or your dynamite)
Even after you’ve safely made it to the other side, resist the temptation to set fire to your old bridges. You never know when those valuable connections may come in handy — especially when you’re launching a business. Who knows? Your old employer may wind up being one of your first new customers, and you may find yourself traveling over that bridge once again. (If you ignore my advice and blow up that bridge anyway, you’re destined to run into your old boss at the grocery store every week for the rest of your life. Just remember that.)
When you’re leaving a job to start your own business, work hard to the very end. Be nice. Don’t burn bridges. And finally, always remember: What goes around, comes around.
Mike Kappel is the president of Patriot Software, Inc., a developer of online software for U.S. small businesses, as well as a supporter of entrepreneurship. Connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @MikeKappel, and on LinkedIn.