Former small business owner resume


How do you craft your resume when you go from your own business to working for others?  To run your own business is part of the American dream.  According to the Small Business Administration (, over 600,000 new businesses are started each year!  Sadly, well over half that many (300,000+) also close each year.  When these businesses close or more income is needed, the owner is often required to go back out in the “traditional” work force (and sometimes it’s a welcome change from the stress!).

The problem is that, for some reason, the “traditional work force” doesn’t usually like to hire entrepreneurs! My experience tells me that the biggest reason is that they think “well, if you couldn’t make it on your own, why would I want to hire you?”  It’s a sad and badly misguided perspective, but it’s the hard truth.  Here we will discuss how to write a resume after being out of the workforce for years running a small business, i.e., the former small business owner resume.


The quick lesson here – Don’t put “owner”, “founder”, “entrepreneur”, “partner”, etc, on your resume.  It sends the wrong signals.  (The exception, of course, is if you’re a wildly successful entrepreneur, and the reason for your resume isn’t to get a job!)

Instead of these titles, look one level deeper at what you did the most of or what you were really, really good at.  In my case, I excel at business development and project management.  So, while I did start and run my IT companies, my resume wouldn’t say that.  I’d still list the company name, location, etc, but instead of “founder”, I would put Vice President of Business Development or “Project Manager.”  Below that, I would list accomplishments specific to that title.  Don’t forget – don’t list tasks, list accomplishments.  “Grew revenue from $400,000 to $1,100,000/year in two years”, for example.  Not “worked with customers to increase revenue.”


Pay attention here – you’ll have to face this eventually.  We’re not trying to be misleading in this method.  Instead, we’re trying to get that potential employer to focus on your strengths.  When you land that interview – and you will land that interview! – be prepared to talk about the company.  Be open – “well, in fact this was a project that I started and ran for two years, but project management was my strength and what I did the most of.”  Once you get in front of the interviewer, you can throw in that you know what it’s like to make payroll, you know what it’s like to watch cash flow, and as such you will really take a vested interest in what you do at this new company.  You’ll have a much more comprehensive perspective on the situation than any other applicant because of this.  And, it shows that you’re not afraid to really dig into a project and go for it.

If your company closed due to less-than-desirable performance, and the situation hits where the interviewer asks “why did it close?”, I’d encourage you to tailor your response toward “well, I had a goal in mind that made it worth my time, and I told myself if I didn’t meet this goal by a certain time, that my time was better spent elsewhere.  It was the responsible choice.” They don’t need to know any of your specifics – no revenue numbers, no profit and loss numbers, etc.  As quickly as you can, get them back on the positive trend – “but we did some great things and I feel it really helped me grow as an individual, and position me perfectly to excel in a position such as this.”


Practice this and be ready.  Don’t make a big deal out of it and don’t talk about the “ownership” aspect more than you have to.  Focus on what you did that was valuable and how it will apply to this new position you are applying for.  Stay very positive, upbeat, and optimistic about what you bring to the table – because you bring a lot to the table!

Those that have never started their own company will not understand, and don’t expect them to.  It’s an experience that “you have to be there” for.  What you learned during that experience can’t be taught any other way.  The potential employer should be grateful that you have that experience!


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On January 1, 2012, posted in: All, Encouragement, Tips by