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Making The Transfer From Employee to Entrepreneur. Liz Leffman Director Clothesource Management Services. My Business History. Started out in advertising Moved to marketing in the dairy industry Joined Courtaulds and ran a couple of factories making clothing for Marks and Spencer

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Making The Transfer From Employee to Entrepreneur

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Making The Transfer From Employee to Entrepreneur

Liz Leffman


Clothesource Management Services

My Business History

  • Started out in advertising

  • Moved to marketing in the dairy industry

  • Joined Courtaulds and ran a couple of factories making clothing for Marks and Spencer

  • Became International Marketing and Business Development Director for Courtaulds Fabrics

  • In 1992, started a business sourcing clothing in Eastern Europe

Clothesource Management Services

  • Between 1992 and 2000, operated in Poland, Belarus, Romania and Bulgaria, finding clothing factories and managing manufacturing for UK clients

  • Disastrous expansion to the US in 1998 caused us to re-think the direction of the business

  • Since 2000, we have changed direction from hands-on manufacturing to consultancy

  • Our clients today are international and include many high-street names

Clothesource Today

  • Still have an office in Romania and provide quality control for UK clients, making womenswear, childrenswear and airline textiles

  • We sell “shrink-wrap packages” of information worldwide, and have consultancy clients in UK, US, Spain, Switzerland and Australia

Princes Trust Mentor

  • For 10 years, I have mentored young people starting their own business

  • The same issues affect every small business

  • Sometimes experience in a large company can be the wrong experience for a business start-up

Structure of this presentation

  • Transferring skills: employee to business owner

  • Key challenges in the early years

  • The challenge of growth

  • Conclusions

Is trained for the job

Is surrounded by colleagues

Knows her place in the company heirarchy

Can rely on support

Can rely on a salary

Expects career progression

The Company Employee

The New Business Owner

  • Is on her own

  • Often has no specific training

  • Does not have an automatic support network

  • Cannot guarantee a salary

  • Has no job security

  • Has to maintain the original vision while dealing with the day to day

Transferring Skills

  • The following skills I found particularly useful:

    • Sales and marketing

    • Management accounting

    • Production

    • Sourcing

      But not everyone has that experience

Learning New Skills

  • As an employee, I did know anything about:

    • Computers

    • VAT

    • Cash flow

    • National Insurance

    • Employee law

And Un-learning Some Old Ones!

  • The mistakes I made early on in my business were largely due to my large company experience

  • For example, paying to have a logo designed and buying headed paper

  • Spending money on hotels and meals and the other trappings of corporate life

Key Challenges in the Early Years

  • Balancing personal and business goals

  • Managing long-term goals v short-term needs

  • Getting support

  • Creating structure and systems

  • Understanding the importance of cash flow

TheChallenges of Growth

  • Finding the right partners and suppliers

  • Learning to delegate (again)

  • Re-visiting the business plan

  • Balancing growth with cash flow

  • Course correcting when things go wrong

The Importance of Support

  • Many entrepreneurs value outside support

    • Mentoring has proven results

    • Coaching can provide help with both long term plans and short term pressures

    • Local networking puts small business owners in touch


  • Many skills learned in a corporate environment can be of real use to the new business owner

  • BUT these skills alone will not guarantee success

  • Every entrepreneur must be prepared to make mistakes and course correct

  • Learning in a new business is largely about trial and error

  • Mentoring or coaching can be of huge benefit

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