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Starting new career can be like a first plunge

Ready, set, jump! For someone considering a mid-career change to become an entrepreneur, it can feel like taking your first plunge into the unknown.  When you leave your W-2 regular paycheck behind and pursue your business dreams, it can be a time of fear, excitement and renewed energy.  A confluence of factors including more Baby Boomers choosing to work into retirement, the current recession and the downsizing of corporate America have produced a growing trend in entrepreneurship for mid-life workers.  According to a RAND study commission by the AARP, approximately 20 percent of the entire over-50 workforce in the U.S. is self-employed, and one-third of those workers made the transition to self-employment after turning 50. 

Local entrepreneur Mike Naylor found himself at a decision point in 2003.  After a very successful career in the bottling business, Naylor had worked his way up to being a senior executive with Pepsi Americas, the second largest Pepsi bottler in the world.  At age 45 and after 20-plus years in the industry, he found himself looking for a change.  Rather than move with his job from Memphis to Chicago, he chose to take a different path and embrace the life of an entrepreneur.  After considering multiple options, he decided to acquire the franchise rights to the Little Caesar’s territory in Central Mississippi.  As a native of Meridian, this was a homecoming for Naylor.  In his corporate life, he had managed a budget of $800 million and had a staff of 1,100, but in early 2004, he had no revenue, a newly formed LLC and one employee.  

As a part of this change, Naylor noted the calculated risks that entrepreneurs take, which include an emotional and financial risk as well as time.  According to Naylor,  “As I set out to build this business, I drew upon the skills I had learned over the years in my career, which has been a tremendous help.”  Specifically, Mike planned first, then executed with intensity.  He developed a detailed business plan to quickly open a number of franchise stores, and he has diligently worked his plan.  Mike has also utilized the five core principles that guided him in his advancement in the bottling business which he teaches to all of his new employees: 

Do what is right

We all intuitively know right from wrong.  We need to not let self-interest cloud our judgment, but instead act on our conscience to live lives of integrity. 


Give your very best

We all have good days and bad days, but each of us has the ability to give our best each day.   When we provide lackluster performance ,we are not only cheating our employer, we are ultimately cheating ourselves. 


Treat people like you

want to be treated

The Golden Rule still applies. We each have the opportunity to act with kindness and respect towards our co-workers, bosses, or managers. 


Don’t lie and don’t steal

Lying and stealing destroy trust and relationships.  Employers need to empower employees to ask if they have a need, but emphasizing that taking is not an option. 


Give me the apple

Jim Collins would describe this as “confronting the brutal facts.”  Employers can’t manage effectively if they don’t know the facts.  Employees should be encouraged to share the truth without sugarcoating.   

For Naylor, these core principles, along with a constant push for clarity of priorities, have proven to be a successful formula both in corporate America and now in his own business.  Starting with one store in 2004, he has now opened 11 stores and is opening three to four new locations per year.  Whether out of necessity or choice, there are many talented corporate employees like Mike Naylor who will hopefully continue to step out and make the jump into the world of entrepreneurism and grow our Mississippi economy. 


Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson. He can be reached at mew@msbusinesslaw.com.


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