Long before Neil Belenkie became the CEO of both the GrowthPoint Group and Sirona Biochem, he was working as a salaried employee and had just set a company record for being the fastest new member of staff to close his first deal – a pharmaceutical agreement that was supposed to have been "uncloseable."
He and his wife Bronwen were celebrating the success, as they had all his previous achievements, when she asked him how much the company had helped him to close the deal.
Not much, he responded.
The Harvard Business School alumnus realized then that the money he was bringing in to the firm was significantly out of line with his compensation.
"My epiphany was realizing I was leaving a lot of money on the table, closing sometimes seven-figure deals for a small salary," Belenkie recalled. "I thought, I don't know if I need to be taking a salary with almost no upside when I'm good at this.
"If I'm really good at this, and I can actually do it, why not start to look at trying to take more on the back end rather than taking salary on the front end?"
He and his wife discussed the possibility of him striking out on his own after eight years of working as a salaried employee. The couple decided they were willing to roll the dice because Belenkie was confident he would be successful.
The result was RevGen, a company he co-founded that was profitable within its first month in business.
RevGen is no longer around because Belenkie and his partner had different ideas about where the company should go, but he has since gone on to found GrowthPoint. Last October, he also became the CEO of Vancouver-based Sirona Biochem.
Belenkie's success shows that if you're exceptionally good at what you do, working for yourself by starting a company might reflect your real marketplace worth and make far more sense than continuing to work for a salary.
"The value that one brings when one actually gets something done is often not balanced well with a regular job designed to support the average worker," he said.
On taking the risk and making the leap to being your own boss: "I meet a ton of people who are employees who are wondering if they should take that leap [starting their own businesses], and I think it all comes down to whether you really think that you can do it. If you do, then it's not a risk. If you're good enough to do the job, then everything else will follow."