After a gruelling day at the office, crunching numbers and pushing pens, the last thing anyone wants to do is go home and do it all again, so it’s understandable that many prospective entrepreneurs think twice about starting a business while working.
But, in fact, there are many advantages to burning the candle at both ends – here are the top 10:
If you keep your existing job while building your business, you’ll retain a guaranteed income – and reduce the risks associated with starting a business.
Hannah McNamara, founder of corporate coaching firm HRM Global, took a day job in a chair shop while she was establishing her own firm. She says this “took the pressure off both financially and emotionally.
“Setting up a business is a time when you’re testing your emotional strength, and if you’re worrying about debt collectors coming round you’ll feel unnecessary pressure – and may end up making bad decisions.”
A day job also gives you extra time to set up your project. Rather than rushing your vision into the public domain, you can make sure you have clients lined up, suppliers and partners in place, and a top-notch website.
Tristram Mayhew, who started building Go Ape while working for General Electric, says:
“In our case, we came up with the idea in August 2002 and didn’t chuck in our jobs until 12th January. We found that people often don’t come back to you for two or three weeks; for us, the insurance took two or three months. So you can’t rush it through in a matter of a few weeks.”
Tristram adds that, by keeping cash coming in from your existing job, “you may not have to resort to an investor or take loans, or at least minimise that.
“It’s incredibly important to maximise your equity shareholding. When you start out, it’s the most expensive time to sell equity because everyone investing will say it’s very risky, so the equity is almost valueless.
“You might find you give away half your business for something which seems a lot of money at the time - £100k, £50k, £20k – but if it does succeed, you may come to regret it.” When faced with the risk of losing control of your business, those few weeks of all-hours torture might suddenly seem worthwhile.
Anyone starting out in business will, at some point, question whether they have the desire to see their vision through. Well, once you’ve spent a few weeks balancing two jobs, you’ll know for sure whether you’re sufficiently committed.
Tristram says such a gruelling schedule “will test your passion [for your business idea]. Most people’s experience of starting their own business is working all hours. If you don’t like the idea of starting a business while you’re working, maybe it’s not the thing for you.”
If you’re setting up a business on your own, things can get very lonely if you’re working by yourself all day.
Hannah McNamara says that one of the benefits she gained from working in a chair shop was “sanity”, adding that “starting a business from scratch can be very lonely, so having people around you can help you stay focused, and can even give you new ideas.”
In most cases, your employment contract will forbid you from poaching your existing firm’s clients and customers straightaway. However, you may be able to use the contacts later.
Hannah advises any prospective entrepreneur to “make sure that you’re using all of your existing work contacts effectively. Many people’s first customers are the ones they worked with in their old job.”
Rather than viewing your existing job as a distraction from your new venture, you can use your salaried role to hone skills which will help you in your start-up.
According to Hannah McNamara, “before working in a shop, I didn’t have much experience of selling directly. In the shop, I had to listen to people selling and come up with a solution, rather than coming up with the hard sell. It really helped my listening skills.”
As an entrepreneur, good time management is key, and combining a full-time job with your new venture is a great way to learn true time management skills, in a real-life environment. If you can balance the demands of the two businesses, and switch between salaried employee and self-employed decision-maker, you should be well-equipped to handle life as an entrepreneur.
Hannah says that, when she was working two jobs, “I found the time I spent on my business was very focused time. If you’ve only got a few hours a day, you make sure those hours matter, and you’re actually doing something productive.”
When you’re balancing two jobs, you have to think outside the box to maximise time and money. This can only lead to creative solutions, as Hannah McNamara says:
“I put sales CDs onto my MP3 player on the bus to the chair shop, rather than reading a novel or listening to music. I practised it at the chair shop, and was able to employ the things I learned in my business.”
Because you have the safety net of the salaried job, you’ll know you’re starting the business because you want to, not because you have to.
Tristram Mayhew says: “It’s important psychologically to be making a positive choice to start your own business. I was about to start a new job in Barcelona (with GE) and it was important for me to be able to say ‘no I don’t want that, I want to start my own business’.”