"Lorenzo, you’re a wantrepreneur - you’ve never really done it for yourself. Have you got what it takes to become an entrepreneur?"

Ouch. At the ripe old age of 42, that’s what somebody said to me, not that long ago, and it struck a chord. It made me think hard about what I wanted to look back on. Was it a successful career working for companies, or a legacy for my kids and something unexpected? Both have their merits, and I know plenty of successful, happy people in each category, but I chose the latter; and that was the beginning of the end for Lorenzo the employee.

I started work at 17 in a family print business, packing leaflets from the back of a folding machine. Watching the sales guys pull up in their TVRs and Golf GTIs, wondering how quickly I could join them. 

25 years, a successful marriage and two healthy kids later, I found myself at one of the world’s largest digital consultancies, Publicis Sapient, running transformation programmes and managing the complexities of a global organisation. 

And that was when I decided I had to go small to go big again. To take back control of my journey, and inject some fear back into my life. Maybe it’s the sheer number of books and podcasts I consume that led me to this - or maybe it’s just what I was meant to do. I’m not going to over-analyse it too much though, because I’m trying to do less of that these days!

So, I decided to leave, but as the sole earner in our family, I couldn’t leave with nothing to go to (no money coming in!), so I set about doing two things:

Understanding my value

What would people or companies pay me for? It turns out I know a thing or two about growing digital agencies and start-ups. And a thing or two about digital transformation. So, these are the areas I have chosen to focus my attentions.

Using my network

Once I knew where I could add value, I started to review every relationship I had, both professional and personal, to see where I could add value. I continue to do this every day.

Today I provide growth strategies for start-ups and agencies and advice to brands to help shape their investment in digital. Where this will end up, I don’t know. But I’ve reconnected with old friends and clients, who are all helping work it out. 

I have one boss now – my family. As long as we continue to eat well, with a roof over our heads, we’re ok. But what drives me is the potential to experience outsize returns. It feels like the blinkers have been taken off, and I can see opportunities in everything. 

They say there are five stages of growth for an entrepreneur (yes, I’ve used that word!):

1.    Employee

2.    Self-employed

3.    Entrepreneur

4.    Investor

5.    Philanthropist

The future and the fear

How far I make it on this journey, I don’t know, but I reckon I have another 40 years, with advances in modern medicine, so here’s to my 83-year-old self. Looking back, smelling great, but that’s for another post (I’m starting a luxury fragrance business too!)

So, if you’re thinking about making the leap from employee to self-employed, or entrepreneur, I’ll tell you this:

You’ll lie awake at night gripped by fear, as you move through the mental process of leaving. People will tell you that they admire your balls, whether you’re a man or woman. Which means they think you’re crazy, by-the-way.

But seeing the direct impact of your value, up close and personal is exhilarating. It’s liberating, and it’s extremely satisfying. 

So, work out what people will pay you for. Use your network, to find your first client. Plan your escape – know what you need to live. And don’t expect too much too soon. Lastly…hold your nerve.