Being Your Own Boss: One CEO’s Journey From Corporate Burnout To Business Owner

by Apr 1, 2021Inspiring Stories

Jennifer Crandall was deep into corporate life, and almost a decade into a flourishing career in global sourcing when her stepdad died from a heart attack, and a dear friend died from cancer way before his time. This was her moment to rethink her goals, which become crystal clear in an instant: she didn’t want to retire, then die. She wanted to retire early, to have time to enjoy her life.

That’s when she started investigating making a change. She started asking questions, and finding out about people who had taken a break, a sabbatical or a major life change. Her investigating led to one of the proudest moments of her life: announcing the birth of her mostly women-run business, Safe en Route Food, on International Women’s Day. Here are her tips for burnt out corporate employees ready to venture out on their own.

DECISION MAKING ISN’T A 10 STEP PROCESS

“Leaving corporate is how I got away from burnout,” she says. The freedom she’s experiencing running her own business inspires her team of 15-20 subcontractors daily. For Crandall, being the main decision maker is a game changer, and has reinspired her to not even want to stop at age 50 now, because she’s doing something she loves. “I love not having to ask 700 people to make a decision,” she said. Instead, she is able to power her team of mostly women, who are often minorities in the food science world. She especially focuses on hiring part-time contractors who are looking to work from home to spend more time with their kids. She calls this phenomenon a “notable trend” and relies on their expertise and passion to run her business.

DEMANDING, NOT HOPING, FOR SELF-CARE STANDARDS

If you work for Crandall, vacations and weekends are “sacred.” You can email her, but she’s not going to answer. “I push that a lot. Even my attorney doesn’t quite get it. I had 13 messages from her when I woke up this morning.”

During her time in the corporate world, she wouldn’t even consider missing work for a funeral other than an immediate family member. She missed many funerals in 22 years. This year, for the first time, she chose to attend her uncle’s funeral, setting the bar for her team to value family first. “I have to do this because I have to teach my team that this is what I need to do,” she said. “Give space and grace.”

By setting up boundaries, and keeping an eye on enforcing them for herself, she is accountable to her own future burnout prevention. She works to ensure she isn’t letting people in, or their messages, until she’s mentally ready.

SAYING “NO” NOW FREES UP SPACE TO SAY “YES” LATER

The hardest decision Crandall has had to make to choose people over profit was to walk away from a difficult client. “It was by far one of the hardest lessons,” she remembers. “They were getting increasingly more difficult to work with, and quit communicating, and when we invoiced them (since they didn’t tell us to stop working, they said ‘I’m not paying this.’” Like the leader she is, she paid her subcontractor out of her own pocket, and learned a powerful lesson about saying no to troublesome clients to make room for more work and better clients in the future.

KEEP THE GOALS AND MOTIVATION HIGH

Crandall isn’t shy about promoting her success on social media, and definitely doesn’t consider it bragging to share her success with others. While she says her mission is “still unfolding,” her success in just 2.5 years, catapulting from a one woman show to a company employing nearly 20 others, speaks to her motivation.

“My intent is the larger I can get, the more people I can hire, and the more clients I can help,” she said. “I’m helping people break free from the corporate constructs.” On her pay stubs, she writers to her contractors “Our business is to help you grow your business.”

Written by Jessica Walther, CEO of Itivate

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