A corporate mindset for a small business – does it work?

Recently I’ve spoken with a couple of women who are ex-corporate and now run their own small business. What struck me (loud and clear) was the corporate language and jargon that is used and the same ‘mind-set’ despite not working there anymore.

When you step away from corporate life to set up your own business you enter a completely different world and need to adjust. It is a world of completely different challenges with a different perspective. It is hard to apply everything you did ‘before’ in corporate life, to events or situations happening now and expect similar results. It’s simply not a case of behaving the same way but ‘scaling it down’!

I hold my hand up!

I’ve been guilty of this in the past myself, in the early days of running and owning a small business. I admit that it can actually take time to ‘shake off’ the corporate mentality and corporate approach to running a small business. In fact I think it took me years if I’m honest.

Everything that happens in the corporate world does not happen (but smaller) in the world of business ownership, particularly when you are the owner of a ‘micro’ business. The people you deal with will react less favourably when using jargon particularly if they don’t come from the corporate world themselves. A great way to alienate others!

Watch what you say and how you say it

A corporate mind-set can appear brazen and insensitive. Charging through to get what you want does not usually get the desired results, but usually has the adverse effect.

Women in particular often need to stand out within a male dominated environment to be noticed or ‘heard’ or may have found themselves vying for attention, among alpha females, so may forget themselves occasionally and slip back!

Be authentic

Strong women do not need to act passive/aggressive to get recognition or gain results. A light tone of voice, humour, encouragement or a softer approach can get much quicker results particularly with other women. Being authentic works wonders! Leave the macho approach and corporate language behind and embrace the new world of business ownership, with a smile. A smile cuts through everything.


If you have left (or are leaving) a corporate career behind, to set up a new business on your own, congratulations! If your new business deals with corporate clients via projects or consultancy work, then carry on with the jargon, it will be appropriate. However if you are now interacting and conducting business with other small businesses or solopreneurs, be mindful of how you behave and the language you use to those around you, it may be misinterpreted.

The one thing that translates well across from the corporate world to small business ownership is professionalism and respect for others. If you keep this at the heart of everything you do, you won’t go far wrong!