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From Worker to Business Owner - Top Tips for Engineers

Engineers create, which often can feel like the world is your oyster, and at other times can make it feel like your career has a cap. After all, engineers are specialists. After a certain point, to move forward in your career, you are going to want to expand your operations. This will mean working your way from being an employee, to being a business owner of your own or at least managing a team or department like you would a business.

For the greatest freedom and flexibility, however, you are going to want to take the plunge and work to create and launch a business of your own. This is how you will be able to focus on what you love to do most, and with the values that matter to you taking center stage.


Every engineer has the chance to take their talent and start their very own company, but if you don’t have a background in business or a head for it the skills that you will need to take that plunge may be lacking.

Building up your skillset, planning a great business, and launching well are all very important steps when it comes to finally taking that final leap from engineer to business owner, and this guide will give you tips, tricks, and suggestions on how to make it happen.

How to Know It’s Time to Make the Leap

Knowing that you ultimately want to become a business owner is a great place to start, but knowing when you are a ready is another matter entirely. While you can always start a business, there are a few important signs that you are ready.

1. You have a thought-out business idea.

You can have a winning business idea as a teenager and pursue it and make it your entire legacy. You can have a great business idea decades into your career and use all of your industry knowledge and experience to bring it to life. There is no amount of time or experience that you need to have as a prerequisite, but you absolutely do need to have a winning business idea and a working strategy to bring it to life. There is a massive difference between having an idea and knowing it will work. To start, you need to workshop your concept and invest time and energy researching and developing an effective business plan. If you aren’t ready to do that at minimum, then you aren’t ready to start a company of your own. It may also benefit you, to review your mental models as a way of thinking, in order to improve your problem-solving skills.

2. You know how to manage and run a business

Knowing how to run a business or manage a team is a great prerequisite, but you don’t need to work as a manager or have business experience. There are business administration degrees and also specialist management degrees designed to help prepare you for both executive level positions and to also start your own business.

3. You don’t want to progress further with your career

Though you don’t need to continue in your current career trajectory until you essentially hit a wall of bad options to start a business of your own, this can be just the wakeup call that you need. Working as an engineer for others can take you far, but if you start to dread or just simply dislike the ways that you can take your career to the next level then it’s time to start considering new and interesting approaches to your future. There are several advantages to waiting until this phase as well. You’ll have a greater level of experience and industry knowledge, you’ll have a much larger network, and you may even know a few talented people you would want to go into business with.

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How to Build Those Essential Business Skills

One of the biggest barriers for those looking to start a business of their own is business skills themselves. This plagues those who work in specialist roles particularly, as you have a long career ahead of you that allows you to focus solely on your trade without needing to go into management or to start learning the ins and outs of business administration. Rather than go for a generic MBA, however, there are far better approaches to help you make the next step up in your career.

Earn the Right Management Degree

Engineers should look into the benefits of an engineering management degree. A great Masters in Engineering Management online program can provide you with budget and financing skills, project management skills, people management and leadership skills, the ability to use an analytics-driven decision-making approach, and also product innovation and operations management.

These are all very, very crucial skills that are specific to many engineers. Being able to manage a project and a team will prepare you for a whole new phase of your career. It doesn’t matter if you first work within management or leadership roles in your existing workplace, or if you immediately take these skills to help yourself manage and build your own team and business. The skills you will learn are invaluable and designed to help you bridge the skills that you need with those you already have.

If you are intending to start your own business then it is always a good idea to have the idea fleshed out before you start – even if you intend to work in a managerial position for a few years to start with.

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You can focus on data analytics, for example. This is a great option considering the digitization and the sheer amount of data that professionals need to work with today. You can also specialize in advanced project management, product innovation management, or operations management. It depends entirely on your goals and what your business will be based around. Try to focus on the areas that you think you are weakest in, or have the least amount of knowledge in, to get the most out of the program.

These engineering degrees are ideal for those in many different engineering fields, and also those with a background in either computer science or in physics. If you work to produce products or projects, then an engineering management program can help give you the leg-up that you need to make that next important step forward.

With Lifelong Learning and Coaching

A degree offers a foundation of knowledge that can be applied in many different applications. You can hold off on starting your own business and first focus on starting a new career in engineering management, for example, or you can work for yourself as a freelancer or consultant. Regardless of what your next career phase looks like, know that you will always need to continue your education.

This means learning and updating your understanding of different coding languages, staying up to date with the latest changes to the tools you use, and even learning new tools as they are invented.

A lifelong approach to learning is excellent for your career and can help you adapt and improve your business and professional skills again and again. When it comes to standing out and making it in this fast-paced world, there is certainly no better option.

How to Bring Your Business Idea to Life

Having the skills and being ready are the starting line. If you want to launch, however, there is a lot of preparation you need to invest in. Without this prep you’ll be putting out fires left and right while you try to become accustomed to your new business, or worse, find it difficult to get off the launch pad at all.

With these tips you’ll have a better understanding of just what is needed when you want to bring your business idea to life.

· With Research

There is a lot that you need and will want to research during the initial development phase of your business. Start first by developing your business idea. Workshop it with other professionals, with friends and family, and by yourself. This is particularly useful if you want to do something unique or different, as you need to be able to get to the guts of your idea.

Find comparable competitors and research them and their business model as well. If they are particularly large you can even request certain information from them through the freedom of information act, though in most cases there will be reports and other freely available information for you to explore without needing to do anything directly.

Knowing who your target audience is, what they want, their needs, and their values is also very important. Looking at who your competitor’s customers are and how they appeal to them is a great place to start, but don’t stop there.

Regardless of whether your business is B2C or B2B knowing your customers and target audience is a must. It is how you will create better marketing materials, how you will offer value, and how you will nail a content marketing strategy.

There are so many ways that you can advertise and grow your business but without that key market research you run the risk of appealing to those who aren’t interested in your actual services or products, just the information you offer. This can help your reputation, but it won’t offer much in terms of your bottom line.

· With Guidance

You don’t have to do everything on your own. In fact, you likely cannot do everything on your own. There are business consultants that know exactly what your business will need, up to and including what type of business you should set up with the government. There are certain small decisions that you can make that will have lasting consequences, so to avoid them and to ensure that your business starts with all the tools of success it is recommended that you partner with someone who has been through the process before, or ideally someone who specializes in helping new businesses get on their feet.

· By Outsourcing

Consultants aren’t the only ones that you will want to outsource to, either. Outsourcing simply means finding either freelancers or full agencies that can help you get your business on its feet. In some cases it will always be better to outsource certain needs. HR and accounting, for example, are commonly outsourced by even the biggest companies in the world who do have the budget to have internal teams outsourced.

There are several departments in the beginning in particular you will want to outsource for, starting with your website. Have a specialist design and launch your website so that it looks and works professionally.

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Accounting, HR, and security are two other departments that you will want to outsource rather than try to hire someone in-house. You may want to bring those departments in-house later on, but do know that the benefits of outsourcing are there for companies of all sizes.

After all, outsourcing allows you to:

  1. Benefit from expert support when you need it.
  2. Benefit from an entire team’s support rather than just one person.
  3. Typically benefit from fixed monthly rates.

You will want to explore your options and compare the different deals available. Finding an agency that offers fixed rates and great benefits isn’t impossible, especially after you have moved past the difficulties associated with setting up your company at the start.

You don’t need an IT and security specialist on your team full time, for example, but you do need someone that will monitor and be able to react to issues when they happen. An agency can do this for you by offering the support of a full team without the price tag.

Use Your Network and Experience

As an engineer you have a lot of unique experience and will likely have a very important network to start with. From finding new clients in people you have worked for or with in the past, to finding great people to partner with or hire for your new company, the options available to you because of your past experience are high and should always be invested in if you truly want to start your own business successfully.

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