How the Risk of Leaving Corporate America and Working for a Small Business Became My Biggest Reward

Krista LaPlante, Business Manager, and veteran team member of Jaguar Business Solutions, shares her personal story of how she gave up the comfort and cushiness of a corporate job to start over and work for a small business, and what she learned from the experience of not only working for a small business, but what it’s like to work with small businesses to help them realize the joys and challenges of the journey of startup success. 

I am sure you’ve heard the term “Corporate America” or “Corporate World” repeatedly. What does that actually mean? For me, it meant I finally succeeded. It meant I made it. What’s funny is as a 20-something-year-old college student, unsure of what I wanted to be when I grew up, the Corporate World seemed to be my default mode.

Look, I won’t write this entire blog about my experiences at a big corporate office or how misleading those jobs can be. Rather, I will share my experience of how finally leaving it changed everything. 

Taking a Leap of Faith

Once upon a time, in 2008, I began my very first corporate job as a receptionist. Nearly a decade later, I took the leap of faith to work for a small business (the one I am writing this for today). Why did I say this was a leap of faith? Well, working for a small business comes with major risks. Already sounds promising, right? Hang in there with me!

You wouldn’t be the first one to look at me funny. I’ve chatted with many friends, family members, and even strangers who have told me, “as long as you know what you are getting yourself into.” The ironic part is, do we EVER know what we are getting ourselves into when we accept a new job? However, in this case, I did know. Before making a full-time commitment, I worked part-time for said small business.

As time went on and this part-time gig began to grow, my life changed in many ways. Fast-forward to 2020, we were smack-dab in the middle of my (and probably everyone else’s) first pandemic. My full-time job became completely remote, which was another first for me. This change forced me to adopt a level of independence in the workplace that I was unaware I needed. It made me realize my own strengths and challenges without waiting for them to be pointed out in my traditional “yearly review.”

This unprecedented time really made me look within. I started noticing I was having more “bad days” and also learning what made them “bad”. Everyone has their reasons for why a job may not be working out, but for me, being micromanaged daily was a wake-up call. I knew I never enjoyed being micromanaged. I thrive on being solutions-focused and discovering ways to be more efficient. 

As the days went on, I became more depressed with my job and management. A month or so later, I decided it was time for a change. I had spent years in the corporate world completely miserable, thinking it was the only option. Several discussions later, I had a path forward into the small business world. Excited and scared, my excitement meant so much more.

No Risk, No Reward

The thing about life is your happiness will always be bigger than the risks. You have to TRY in order to succeed. If you fail, you start again—and that’s okay. At the end of the day, I knew working for a small business would be entirely different. There is more to do because you have fewer employees with specific roles. Everyone has to play a part in the day-to-day, and some days it’s all hands-on at all times. That may sound stressful, but it is exciting to have something new to look forward to. The best part about my job is that I learn something new every single day! 

From the moment I started at Jaguar, it was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I am trusted, I am encouraged to be independent, and I am treated like an equal. Working in “Corporate America” is no longer my definition of success, this is. The ability to feel valued and have purpose is far more fulfilling than any “benefits” the corporate world can offer.

Health, Happiness, and Humanity

You may have heard the saying or something to the effect of, “Don’t sacrifice your life for a job that would replace you within a week.” I used to remind myself that every day. But now? It isn’t even a thought in my head. Working for a small business has changed everything for me regarding working until you are burnt out. Small businesses remember humanity. They aren’t completely caught up in the dollar. The best small businesses want the best for their employees who are truly helping them grow.

The alignment of a work-life balance in the small business world is also much healthier than in the corporate world. There is a different kind of understanding in the small business world that we work to live, not live to work. We are trusted to get our work done on time but are allowed to share feedback when there may be a way to create efficiency without scrutiny by seniority.

I wish my story were the same for everyone, but I know that, unfortunately, it is not. The best advice I could give someone is to follow your heart and trust your instincts. As cliché as it sounds, it truly makes a difference. You must believe in yourself enough to take risks when they are right in front of you. Life is too short to be unhappy in an area of our lives where we spend so much of our time. You DO deserve more. You DO deserve a healthy environment. You DO deserve a boss that cares. You DO deserve a work-life balance. 

At the end of the day, you have what it takes to be happy, especially in the workplace. Don’t ever settle!