While would-be entrepreneurs are often eager to leave their 9-to-5 jobs, Basso’s advice to them is: slow down. Full-time jobs offer the opportunity to sharpen skills, learn new systems and procedures, and network with people who may become valuable contacts down the road. Future entrepreneurs can think of the corporate world as a “live lab” where they can learn many lessons about what to do — and not do — when they start their own businesses.

These lessons can be learned from businesses both big and small. Heritage Link Brands founder Selena Cuffe learned about launching a brand from Procter & Gamble, where she worked on such household names as Pringles and Tampax Pearl. She learned how to successfully establish a need in a market and demonstrate a value to that market — knowledge that helped her start her own business, which imports wines from South Africa and launches them in the United States.

Sandwire founder Adam Schwam, on the other hand, found a great mentor in a small-business owner who launched many companies, including a deli. This mentor taught Schwam how to promote and advertise a business — and how to pick up the pieces if a business failed.

These lessons can even be learned when employees disagree with their companies or their bosses. Snibbe Interactive founder Scott Snibbe, for example, was amazed at the amount of waste he saw while working at Adobe — not just office supplies, but human talent as well. At his own company, he has one person do 10 tasks instead of multiple people doing the same task. While working in the defense industry, Priceline.com co-founder Jeff Hoffman had a boss who only judged employees’ performance based on whether they worked late or not. Hoffman decided he would create an environment where those who worked the smartest — not necessarily the longest — would reap the greatest rewards.

Additional strategies for learning from full-time jobs include:

*Analyzing whether a manager is effective in keeping operations running smoothly.

*Pinpointing those who can truly lead and figuring out what those who cannot are doing wrong.

*Studying how a company motivates staffers and rewards employees for a job well done.

*Learning all about finances, including profit and loss, investors, and balance sheets.


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