Unfortunately, in many minds, a full-time job rebels against any form of entrepreneurship. Like an un-tucked shirt in a prep school, an entrepreneur with a full-time job goes against the grain. In a modern world, where we set parameters and stereotypes for every possible thing imaginable, a full-time employee can’t possibly be a “real” entrepreneur. Right? Recklessly flittering away any savings and donations of family and friend, while tirelessly working on idea after idea with hopeless abandon is certainly more respectable than a part-time entrepreneur distracted by a full-time job. Polar extremes, I realize, but you get my point. But this mindset is flawed.
I don’t believe for a second that there is a definite “right” and “wrong” way of becoming an entrepreneur. However, I absolutely do believe that many startup founders would be so much better, if they did take a (or keep the existing) full-time job while launching their business. In many of my previous posts, I have mentioned my strange start, which did involve cold turkey quitting of a good job. A lot has happened since, and I have recently found myself full-time employed again, and happy.
There are unbelievable benefits reaped when I returned to a full-time job. While the list could fill this page, I kept the impact to 4 ways that getting a job helped my startup:
- Increases Focus – When I was in the throes of co-founding a startup, I was also trying to pick up consulting projects to pay the bills; all while anticipate the birth of our first child. I was stressed (but don’t tell anyone). Guess what I had none of? Focus. It was non-existent. I was scrambling like a wild-eyed retiree at a yard sale. I wasn’t on point with my tasks, and it cost me. Which stressed me out more. In a conversation with a college friend of mine, he summed it up perfectly, “You can’t focus on long term goals while your short term needs aren’t being met.” That was exactly right. Something had to change. When I took the full-time job, it literally changed my mindset instantaneously. I slept well that night. At first sight, the tangible benefits I hadn’t had in over 18 months were amazing. Consistent paycheck, healthcare benefits, etc. But, what was also inherited was a new adherence to a schedule and better discipline. I had a set task in front of me each day. I no longer had to debate at which level of desperation each of my tasks were. I was committed to an employer to provide a service, and that commitment gave me more focus on my startup during after-work hours as well.
- Encourages Creative Thinking – Contrary to what popular culture depicts, a startup environment is not constant creativity. There are things that suck, and tasks that are boring, but need to get done. Setting up bank accounts, phone numbers, CRM systems, paying bills, spending money on business needs with no budget. But then there’s amazing upside of course. When I took a job as a marketing manager of a large technology company, all the creative process used in Mango was spilt over into my day job. I had an open mind to do my job better, and work in higher collaboration with my teammates and clients. And it worked in reverse too. During my work hours, I created proposals and executable plans that adhered to business strategy objectives, and metric-driven goals, while keeping high creativity. Shockingly, the same goes for starting a business. This day-in-day-out performance turned around and enhanced the objectives and direction of our startup as well.
- Maintains Accountability – I’ve heard it said that accountability (or lack thereof) will either help a startup succeed or help it fail. I whole-heartedly agree. An idea itself is absolutely meaningless. The best business and marketing plan in the world will fail, without execution behind it. And to that end, execution is reinforced with accountability. I have admittedly struggled in this area, at times. Juggling several tasks, let alone different roles in different projects leaves you disorganized. Putting out fires as they pop up constantly is horrible. Having a job again, forced me into holding account for my waking hours spent. I manage my schedule and personal time with so much scrutiny. Sure, I fail often (especially if Blacklist is on), but I am on-point with what I do during the day. Being certain to execute what I need to accomplish for my employer. I don’t waste my time, because it is a precious commodity to me. When the switch flips in the evening, and I shift over to startup, I am more diligent and on-point, because I have been exercising that drive and accountability all day. And vice-versa in the early morning hours, when I “check in” to my day job. This has been an invaluable benefit to me this past year.
- Reminder of Motive – In the flurry of life, sometimes it’s easy to forget what we’re working for. We “do the work” in part, because we’re lost without it, and rarely question why we do what we do. Sad really. Without a motive for our efforts, we are literally like the metaphorical hamster on a wheel. I am a huge proponent of occasional pauses in life, to assess circumstances and surrounding. Like so many, I have a family I love very much. Their needs are greater than mine. Always. I will do whatever I have to do to protect those needs. That reason, combined with my personal faith and convictions to do work that matters, was all the reminder of motive I needed. Accepting that full-time job gave me a refreshing reminder of what I was working for. This self-awareness is critical.
So, I’ll take my shirt untucked, thank you, and work my full-time job, while managing my time and resources wisely to continue to further my business as well. Getting a job has helped my startup. It can be done, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. To each his own, but I can certainly speak for the tremendous value gained from working a full-time job while in startup mode.
NOTE: Thanks for checking in! I no longer keep this blog up to date on a routine basis. While I will occasionally write updates here, it is not regular. I have switched all publications over to our new venture, Fuel Your Mission, focused on equipping individuals with tools to succeed in their careers and businesses. Be sure to follow us over there to stay up to date!