Before you say hello to your own business, say goodbye – nicely!

Quitting the day job to start your own business in the same sector is more complicated than you’d think. Read this before you launch into the unknown…

Starting your own business is something a lot of recruitment consultants dream about. I know that because I work with a lot of them, and I’ve helped a lot to start up.

It’s an exciting time, and taking control of your own destiny is an empowering thing.

You’ve worked away at your profession, built a reputation, not to mention a great network of contacts. You’re probably running a high turnover desk, or managing a team and now, it’s time. You want to put your own ideas into practice, and of course make some money. For yourself.

Let’s make some assumptions. You’ve written your business plan, got your branding in place, and of course organised the finances. It can be tough to pull all that together, especially without informed and experienced, not to mention expert, advice. But let’s take it as read for the moment that you’ve managed to do it, and you’ve taken that giant step. What could go wrong now?

It could all go wrong…

Well, several things actually. And they’re things that even the best organised start-ups sometimes manage to overlook.

Firstly, come the day you tell the boss you’re leaving, have you checked out the details of your contract? Is there a notice period you’re contractually obliged to fulfil? Because if you assumed the aforementioned boss would be pleased for you, but sees you as a new competitor so wants you out of the door that instant, you could be horribly wrong. That will put your plans on hold for a start.

Next, what you thought was your bulging address book of contacts could, and probably will, turn out to be the ‘property’ of your employer. So, you could find that there’s an embargo on your talking to them.

Of course, if you’ve planned your start-up properly (and read some of the things I’ve written on the subject!) you’ll have decided to operate in the sector you know best. It’s where your expertise is after all.

Yours wouldn’t be the first former employer to restrict you from operating in that sector, or indeed even that geographical area, for a predetermined time, possibly six months or a year. Now your plans are seriously on hold.

Even if you’ve had promises from some of your clients that they’ll ‘come with you’, it may prove legally impossible to make it happen.

You may perhaps have planned to take on one of your current colleagues. They of course could run into the same problems with the employer.

All of this doesn’t even touch on the legal hoops you’ll need to go through to come out of employment and become self-employed, or a director of a company.  And I haven’t mentioned HMRC. I’ll just leave that one hanging.

But it doesn’t have to!

The fact is that starting up on your own, having left a full-time job with a company in the same business, does have strings attached. And if you’re not careful they’ll trip you up before you can start up.

To get through it all you will need guidance. And it should come from people who understand the recruitment business. Ideally, you need a partner who can help with the finance, and the branding, and the systems you’ll need, and provide sound legal advice on how to make the transition to starting up on your own.

There is one other thing. If you’re good enough to start up your own recruitment business you’re probably pretty good at your job. Which is why your current boss may put as many obstacles as possible in the way of your leaving. Ironic really!

Get proper advice, check every detail, and find a way to say goodbye to your boss – nicely. It will help in the short term, and pay in the long run. (You might find that one day, when you’re a successful business, they come to you for a job! Now that would be nice – wouldn’t it?!).

John Buckman is chairman of Recruit Ventures and a true entrepreneur himself. Having launched and grown many successful businesses especially within the recruitment sector, John’s offers advice and support to others in the industry considering setting up on their own. Find out more at or email



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