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Getting sacked – Is it the best incentive to start your own business?

Alan Sugar might have turned it into a catchphrase, but for most people hearing the words “you’re fired” is quite simply devastating. However, as we find out, it can provide a wealth of new opportunities.
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It’s not just the serious financial implications – the need to pay the mortgage and to put food on the table – but the psychological effect. Shame, anger and self doubt are all likely to crowd in on anyone who has been told to clear their desk at work and not to come back.

However, this unpleasant experience has actually had a very positive effect on all kinds of entrepreneurs including the well-known names behind some of the world’s most successful and celebrated brands. Steve Jobs once said: “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened.”

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Being told by your boss that you’re no good at your job and you should hit the road often provides the impetus for greater success in the same field. Walt Disney was sacked by his editor on the Kansas City Star newspaper in 1919 because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”, while Anna Wintour, legendary British editor of American Vogue, was given the boot from her position as junior fashion editor on Harpers Bazar magazine after less than a year because her editor thought that her ideas were too edgy.

One of Wall Street’s highest flyers, Sallie Krawcheck was sacked from a top job at Bank of America in 2011. However, it didn’t ruin her career, in fact she’s now a business leader at an organisation called 85 Broads, a women’s business networking group with over 30,000 members. “I got grateful when I got fired,” she said in June 2013. “I said ‘how many people get to get fired and it’s on the front page of The Wall Street Journal?’”

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James Ball, who was let go from a large firm of accountants after a series of clashes with his new boss, has started his own accountancy practice. “Getting sacked was the worst thing that happened to me but also the best,” he explained. “I felt angry and ashamed for the first six months and I was a nightmare to live with. But then I got introduced to couple of people locally who were looking for an accountant and I started to pick up more and more work. Now I’m earning more than I was when I was employed and I get more time to myself.

“I’m quite relaxed about explaining to people that I was sacked and once they know that it wasn’t because I was fiddling the books and that it just because I fell out with my boss, they’re completely relaxed about it. In fact I think they quite like the idea. The idea that my life is better now with more opportunities than before I was sacked really inspires me.”

The message is clear. If you’re fired or, to use the more popular euphemisms, “let go,” or told that “your position is no longer available”, don’t sit and brood on it for too long. Use the understandable anger to fuel your ambitions. 

It’s often pointed out that in Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other opportunity. Moving on from the danger and making the most of the opportunity is essential for anyone who’s been sacked.

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