Think you might like to leave the security of your corporate position and hang your own shingle in the marketplace? There are a few things to consider before you make that leap into the unknown, says Kent Bettisworth ’75, founder of Bettisworth & Associates, Inc. First, study the market and determine your value, then do the math: is your knowledge worth roughly twice your salary? If not, you may wish to reconsider. Also, scan the horizon for potential threats that could scuttle your business.

These are lessons Bettisworth had to learn the hard way, as his first business failed. His short-lived venture Infofax (made obsolete by the introduction of the Internet), taught him some important lessons about self-employment that he shared with students at Mays Business School on a recent visit. Speaking to an introduction to management class, Bettisworth discussed the pros and cons of entrepreneurship, as well as generalities for how to succeed in business.

Lesson number one: Always have two plans to success, your Plan A and your fallback.

Bettisworth encouraged students to consider where they want to be in 40 years and then to consider their two plans for getting there. He walked students through his own career path, illustrating his two-plan philosophy, starting with his ambition as a young man to become a naval officer. He planned to attend a university with a naval ROTC program so that he could graduate with a commission, but he had better scholarship opportunities at A&M, which at the time didn’t have such a program. He joined the Corps of Cadets at A&M and intended to pursue Plan B, attending a naval officer candidate school after graduating. Eventually, A&M added a Naval ROTC unit, so he was able to graduate with a degree in management as well as an officer’s commission in 1975. He spent three years on a ship seeing the world, while planning his next step and his two plans to make it happen.

He obtained an MBA while teaching ROTC at the University of Texas—Austin, then went to work for ExxonMobil for 14 years. He left naval active duty, but continued to serve in the Naval Reserves, keeping the military as his Plan B alternative.

In 1995, he left Exxon to start his own business working with companies to incorporate SAP (systems, applications, and products) software. Bettisworth advised students to be on the watch for great entrepreneurial opportunities, those that are “eye-poppin’ and jaw-droppin’.” He suggested they become knowledge experts—and it’s a bonus if your area of expertise is one that is important but that everyone else thinks is boring, making you a rare commodity. Bettisworth’s consulting business deals primarily with valuation of fixed assets. “I belong to the Society of Depreciation Professionals. How boring can you get?” he joked. But no matter what the area, “Do what you love. Have a passion for it. You will be successful if you do.”