The history of the United States is littered with examples of people who started businesses from the scratch and grew them into multi-million and multi-billion dollar enterprises. And with the opportunities that technology has provided in more recent times, many people have leveraged these opportunities to either start or are thinking of starting a business. From app developers to blog owners to freelance writers to graphic designers and online shop owners, there are many people who have taken the risk and started their own business.
However, while a number of businesses that were started from scratch grew to become multi-million and multi-billion dollar enterprises, many others crashed along the way. One of the reasons attributed to success of the businesses that grew into successful enterprises is the fact that the owners started their businesses and grew them to significant level of profitability while still employed. They quit their day job only when they were sure they had a sustainable enterprise.
According to the findings of Professors Joseph Raffiee and Jie Feng of University of Wisconsin – Madison, as published in the Academy of Management Journal, people who maintain their regular job while growing their business in stages are a third less likely to fail compared to those who quit their day job to directly start a new company.
This study which cites Steve Wozniak and Henry Ford as examples of entrepreneurs who started their company while still employed suggests that by gradually transitioning from being an employee into running your business, the entrepreneur is able to test waters to determine if their idea actually has real potential. They suggest that since a new venture does not necessarily need the full attention of the entrepreneur to be successful, the entrepreneur should make small commitments at first, feeling out their working style and skills and testing demand for their product without placing all your eggs into one basket.
Realities You Will Have to Face When Running a Business While Employed
While starting and growing your business offers exciting possibilities, it is not exactly a picnic. You will find that growing a business into a successful venture comes with many unique challenges, all of which you must successfully navigate to achieve your objective. Moreover, running a business while still employed requires acknowledging and successfully managing certain realities that are inherent in this arrangement. Some of these realities are as stated below:
It is Wiser to Start a Business That Does Not Compete With Your Employer
The best business to start would be the one that do not directly compete with your employer even if your employment agreement does not contain a non-compete clause. While it is a fact that starting a business based on your line of work, where you have already got experience and competence is the best option, it is good that your business should be in an area of your work that does not directly compete with what your employer does. If at all possible, see that your business idea is such that it enhances your performance in your job for your employer.
Starting a business that directly competes with your employer while still working could potentially destroy good relationships and estrange you from people that would could be of help to you down the road. It is best to avoid this.
If you are under a non-compete clause that makes it difficult for you to proceed, you should consult an attorney for legal counsel.
Your Business Will be as Demanding as Your Day Job
If your business is going to be successful, you are going to have to devote energy to it. And despite the fact that you are running it by the side while still employed, it will be as demanding of you as your day job. You will need to show the same level of commitment that has made you a success on your day job to your business to be able to grow it into a success. This is particularly crucial in the early days when you are just setting up your system, trying to attract customers and looking to create awareness about your service or product(s). To achieving these objectives, you might need to work on weekends in addition to working on the business after your day job during the week.
The Business Will Most Likely Grow Slowly
We all like that when we start a business, it should grow into a successful, profitable venture within the shortest possible time. There is nothing wrong with this aspiration but when you run a business part-time, you will have to accept that the business will most likely not grow as fast as if you ran it full-time. One of the factors that is critical to the growth of a business is the amount of time devoted to running it so if you put in only a few hours a day during the week plus weekends, you should appreciate that it will most likely take a bit longer for the business to get up to speed.
You Will Need To Scale Down On The Activities You Engaged In During Your Free Time
As you are very likely going to be working in the business alone or with only a few people, you will need to limit the time you devote to other causes in order to attend to every aspect of the business to make it a success. You should look to devote as much of your free time – the time when you are not working for your employer – to running your business. To find the time you need to run your business, make a list of activities and commitments that consume your time during the week and over the weekend. Take a look at the list and cross off those commitments that are not necessary. Next, trim the amount of time you devote to entertainment or social activities such as watching TV, playing video games and checking or chatting on social media. Beyond that, consider your other commitments and figure out the ones you can afford to lessen your involvement with and do so accordingly. The more time you are able to free up in order to devote it to running your business, the faster it is likely to grow.
Here’s How to Successfully Grow Your Business While Still Employed
Having explained some realities that you would need to accept as you launch your business while still employed, we will now proceed to consider the specifics of growing your business into a success while still in your day job.
Choose a Business You Can Afford to Run Part-Time
Obviously, there are only certain businesses you can start and run on a part-time basis: the kind of businesses that do not require the active presence or participation of the owner during the working hours of the day. If you start a business which requires the full presence of the owner for it to run successfully, you will be setting yourself up for potential failure. For instance, a restaurant or a retail store will require you to be hands-on and readily reachable especially during the early stages of the business. If you are unavailable to attend to customers and suppliers as well as manage your staff due to your commitment on your day job, the business will most likely go under even before it gets a chance to get off the ground. In considering the business you will start and run successfully while still employed, you should look to choose a business that will not require your full attention during the working hours of the day.
Write a 3-Year Business Plan That Covers Every Detail of Your Business – And Follow it!
Whatever business you ultimately choose to start, you should absolutely develop a business plan to serve as a guide. In the business plan, clearly spell out your goals for your business – including sales goals, financial goals, growth goals and others and your plans for achieving those goals. Also, endeavor to indicate what possible obstacles you are likely to encounter along the way and your plans for overcoming them. Having clear goals from the get-go and a detailed plan of how to achieve them will help to clarify things up for you and enable you concentrate your energies and resources to be able to achieve faster the milestones you have set for your business. Without clear goals and a detailed plan to achieve them, you will most likely end up spinning in circles without making progress.
Run Your Business Strictly on Your Time and Use Your Resources Entirely
One of the major rules you must stay alert to keep as you strive to grow your business while in paid employment is that you attend to your business strictly on your time and use your resources entirely so that your business does not interfere with your job. Your employer pays your salary so she deserves your full attention during the time when you are at work. Keep separate hours for your job and business. Wake up early to attend to your business before you go off to work or stay up late at night to attend to it. Then devote your weekends to it and cut down on the activities that are not crucial in your life. And if you must make a business call during working hours, do so during your break hour and if possible, do it off your company’s premises or at least, away from your office building. Also, see that you do not use your employer’s supplies and equipment for your business. Creating this separation and keeping it can be tasking but if you are conscientious, you will achieve it without much difficulty.
Leverage Technology to Aggressively Market Your Business
As a startup, you may not have a big budget for your marketing but if you play your game right, you can leverage technology and achieve a lot even on a not-so-big budget. The key is to either learn and master social media marketing skills and employ them in your business or engage someone who will work with you to understand your plans for your business as well as your budget and then come up with a plan that will give you the result you are looking. Using the right strategies, you will find that even though you don’t have the amount of resources the more established businesses have, you will be able to give them a good run for their money.
Offer First-Rate Customer Service to Your Customers
Your customers are a very vital asset to your business and offering them first-rate service to ensure that you meet and exceed their expectations all the time is essential to the success of your business. So develop a plan to ensure that each of your customers have a positive experience each time they deal with you as this will ensure loyalty and repeat business. And as it is most likely that you will receive complaints no matter your level of service and feedback mechanism, your plan should also include a strategy to deal with complaints and grievances swiftly and efficiently to the satisfaction of the complainant. This is a key ingredient in building a positive customer relationship.
Constantly Seek Feedback From Your Customers And Mentors
To be able to consistently offer services or create products that provide value for people, you must continually seek and receive feedback from your customers. Getting feedback from your customers helps you improve on your offering and processes based on the changing and diverse needs of your customers. There is always room for improvement and there will always be one customer or the other who is dissatisfied with an aspect of your service or product. So providing opportunity for your customers to communicate their dissatisfaction or what they consider to be an area that needs improvement will enable you improve your offering to your customers and demonstrate that your priority is to offer them service or products that fully meet their needs.
Unless Your Business Stands to Benefit, Don’t Broadcast in Your Workplace the Fact That You Are Building a Business by the Side
Ok, this point is actually a matter of discretion. You will have to decide based on the dynamics of your workplace if you should make it known to your co-workers and even your boss or employer that you are building a business by the side. If you are sure that your boss and co-workers will be supportive of you and your business if they become aware of what you are doing, you can go ahead and make them aware. After all, it is possible that as you go along in your business, you might need to leverage on the expertise of some of your co-workers at some point down the road. And who knows, you might need your employer to put down money when you need to raise funds. However, if you think that your boss and co-workers may see your side venture in negative light, you will be better off keeping what you are up to yourself.
Quit Your Job Only When the Business Can Pay You a Decent Salary and Still Remain Sustainable…..And Quit in Good Faith
Do not be in a hurry to quit your job in order to ‘give your business full attention’. I have seen people left their jobs to go devote their time to their business after just a few wins only to realize that they left their job too early as the initial success in the business did not translate into consistent growth. A new business will go through cycles, so initial success does not necessary mean you have a sustainable venture on your hands. During the next several months after you have launched your business, you should focus on fully exploring your target market while continually fine-tuning your offering in order to enhance the acceptability of your business in the marketplace. Take time to continue to think things through and seek feedback and advice from others on how to build a sustainable venture. When your business eventually achieved several months of consistent growth and income such that it can pay you a decent salary and still remain profitable, you can then consider quitting your day job to focus full-time on the business. Even so, quit gracefully. You never know, you might need the relationships from your former workplace in the future.