There is a saying that no ship ever finds new waters without leaving the safety of a harbor. But before you set sail on your new adventure, consider whether you can negotiate some useful provisions from your current employer. A good settlement agreement will help you launch your free agency far more easily. Use these tips to be successful.
1. Identify What You Need
As in every negotiation, you have to begin by determining what your real needs are. For example, one colleague of mine decided that before she left to start her own firm, she needed:
- some seed money (a "grub stake" in her words),
- two assistants she could trust,
- contacts in her new industry, and
- the ideas that she had been working on over the past few months.
Other people may need to have their benefits package extended, get released from a non-compete agreement or low-rent space to set up shop. Once you know what your needs are, you can begin to figure out how to persuade your company to help you satisfy them.
2. Develop Creative Proposals
If you can identify value that you can provide to your company in exchange for the value it can provide to you, you will find it much easier to get managers to agree to your ideas. For example, my colleague found three options that worked for both sides.
- First, her employer agreed that in exchange for a lump sum paid up front, she would commit to completing all of her key assignments -- and help train her replacement -- within six months of her departure.
- Second, her bosses agreed that she could take her ideas with her on the condition that she pay a fee to the company once she made a profit off of them (she turned down an equity stake that the company initially proposed).
- Third, they agreed that she could hire two of her colleagues (an administrative assistant and a professional) if she agreed to split the costs of recruiting their replacements and agreed not to hire anyone else from the company for one year.
3. Maintain the Working Relationship
Many times, the most valuable asset your company can provide you is a gift of goodwill (i.e., referrals on your behalf, touting your work, including your products in ad campaigns or helping you garner publicity). If you leave on amicable terms and maintain that relationship, your company is far more likely to help you succeed. My colleague's business would provide complementary services to those offered by her former employer. Not only did she ask for leads and contacts in the industry, she also asked if she could do a few joint-sales calls to these companies. Because she was a valued employee who left on good terms, and because her old company thought its customers would benefit from her services, it quickly agreed.
As a free agent, it is up to you to look out for your interests and to obtain what you need to succeed. Negotiating with your company is one effective way to gather the tools and contacts you will need to set off on your new adventure.