Yaneek Page | Here's how part-time entrepreneurs cheat themselves
"I want to be full-time in my business but the reality is the bills need to be paid so I have to keep my full-time job. The business can't afford to pay me. Plus, it's my salary that helps to cover some of the expenses of the business, like rent and utilities, during these early stages when we aren't making profits and will probably not see a profit for the next few years."
That was the response from a member of the audience passionately opposed to my declaration at a recent panel discussion that there's no such thing as part-time entrepreneurship. In fact, it's the typical answer I get from many people who come to me for advice on how to grow their businesses while keeping their full-time jobs. The fact is, part-time entrepreneurs cheat themselves and their businesses in several ways.
First, one of the most critical success factors for any business, especially start-ups and those in the early growth phase, is its leadership. A business is handicapped without a competent leader. Strong, dynamic and effective leadership is needed every day to create and execute the appropriate growth strategies, manage the day to day operations, work tirelessly to satisfy customer needs and explore new business opportunities, among other duties. This can't be outsourced. In fact, the long-term success of many of the country's leading enterprises is rooted in the vision, passion, and relentless efforts of their founders. A business will never realise its full potential without the right leadership and management.
Second, when people use their salary to subsidise a business that is already handicapped because it lacks leadership, they cheat themselves out of their hard-earned income. Many part-time entrepreneurs prop up their debilitated businesses for years, believing that the business just needs more time and their financial support to 'take off', when in fact those dollars go to waste because the company is starved of a compulsory driving force, in the form of a dedicated, focused entrepreneur.
Third, part-time entrepreneurs don't realise that hiring others such as managers or supervisors to do their job of building their start-up, especially without the oversight coaching and mentorship needed, is not viable or safe. It's unrealistic to expect even the best employee to mirror the type of raw passion, confidence, resourcefulness, enthusiasm and diligence that the founder of the business engenders. Additionally, where there is absentee leadership there is greater risk of theft of property, including the intellectual property of the business. I know of several cases where when key staff leave, they poach other employees, set up competing business and steal not just trade secrets and strategies but also customers.
Fourth, when you try to operate a business while maintaining a 40-hour per week employment commitment elsewhere, you literally run yourself into the ground. You cheat your health, quality of life, family, and sanity.
As I've outlined in this column before, entrepreneurship is one of the most challenging and unpredictable careers on which one can embark. It is even more physically and psychologically draining when you stretch yourself thin trying to juggle several competing interests. Equally disastrous is the risk to one's reputation. You can't give your best self when serving two masters. One, or likely both, will suffer, and this may affect your reputation with the company and elsewhere.
A few years ago, I convinced one of my business coaching clients to take three weeks' vacation leave from his full-time job and execute his strategic growth plan during that period. The business experienced its most profitable quarter ever, and their client base doubled. There was no miracle or magic, just a formal sales strategy, tighter team management, constant and aggressive customer prospecting, closer customer relationships, strategic networking and stronger financial controls. Three years later, his only regret is that he didn't resign sooner.
An important point to note is that resigning your job to go full-time in your business requires careful consideration and planning. There are eight steps which I followed before leaving a promising job to launch my full-time business, which I detailed in a previous column titled, 'When to leave your job to start a business - an 8-point guide'. I would encourage every part-time entrepreneur to read it to assist in any transition from employment, to entrepreneurship.
- Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer in entrepreneurship & workforce innovation. She's also the creator & executive producer of The Innovators TV series. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @yaneekpage, Website: www.yaneekpage.com