Good news for compliance professionals slaving away in the corporate world and dreaming of leaving to start your own business: a trio of compliance entrepreneurs just published a book offering guidance on how to do exactly that.
The book is The Compliance Entrepreneur’s Handbook: Tools, Tips, and Tactics to Find Your Killer Idea and Create Success on Your Own Terms, written by Kristy Grant-Hart, Kirsten Liston, and Joe Murphy. All three are well-known names in the field, and all three departed from the corporate grind in favor of starting their own businesses to serve the compliance profession. So they’ve walked the walk, and now this tome talks the talk for anyone with similar passions who wants to listen.
I was keen to read it, because I’ve worked for myself in the compliance field for years and wanted to see how their observations compared to my own. What struck me most is that they get it right: they impart the important lessons one needs to know if you choose this path, and that’s much better than the alternative of learning the hard way. (Which is what I often did.)
The authors devote whole chapters to focusing on exactly what you want to provide to the compliance world (rather than providing any service anyone will pay you to do), choosing the right legal and ownership structure, and how to frame your sales pitch so it will resonate with customers. Those are issues any entrepreneur will encounter regardless of his or her specific line of work — but if you’ve worked in the corporate realm your whole life, you might have only a vague appreciation of those challenges, or none at all.
The book also spices up that advice with material relevant to compliance professionals, much of it directly from Murphy, Liston, and Grant-Hart’s personal experience. For example, they talk about the “four corners approach” to specialization: compliance function, compliance issue, geographic area, and industry; that material wouldn’t be relevant to people outside the compliance field. This book isn’t generic how-to for small business entrepreneurs; it’s a how-to for compliance entrepreneurs.
Aside from those practical matters of establishing a small business, the authors also talk about the mindsets that various entrepreneurs can have, and how to understand which one you are.
For example, one important point to understand is whether you want to be a king entrepreneur, who runs the business alone with total control, but might make less money; or a rich entrepreneur, who works with co-founders to scale a larger enterprise, but has less control over exactly what happens. Both types are equally valid, the authors stress, but you do need to know which one you are.
That’s entirely true — and I speak from experience, because I’ve tried to be both, and learned the hard way that I’d rather be a king. (Liston writes in the book that in her experience, “kings are often highly talented people whose work product really is above and beyond what most people offer.” I wholly agree.)
Other parts of the book deal with how, or even whether, to form strategic partnerships with larger compliance vendors; how to market your business (right down to the details of how to write good copy or speak at public events); and when to sell or otherwise exit the empire you’ve built. Throughout all the book’s 219 pages, every piece of advice is logical, clear, and wise.
The Need for This Book
I’m also pleased that Liston, Murphy, and Grant-Hart wrote this book because there’s a need for guidance like this. Plenty of corporate compliance officers eventually do leave the office grind, and consulting is a perfectly plausible second act in your career — but it’s not easy, on the mind or the pocketbook. People who want to try this line of work need a concise, understandable primer in how to do the basics.
Moreover, the compliance world needs good, competent startups and consultants. They are the spackling that a large company can use to fill specific needs that might otherwise go unaddressed: codes of conduct not updated, processes not tested, training not expanded, and so forth. They’re also the innovators who can bring a good idea to market, even if that idea is a bit disruptive at first.
Sure, a large compliance vendor is often great for a large company with a fundamental need, such as installing a global reporting system or managing 2,000 policies across nine business units and 100,000 employees. But plenty of projects aren’t good fits for large vendors. Then your choice is to handle it in-house, put it off for another year, or find a niche player.
Well, that means the compliance profession needs good, competent niche vendors. You, the compliance profession who isn’t going down the entrepreneur’s path, need a book like this to exist as much as the compliance professionals who are.