Want to start a business while you phase out of your corporate day-job? Perhaps you’ve already read a few books on the subject? Gobbled down The Lean Startup and The Startup Owner’s Manual? Attended a few courses or even made an application to a well-respected incubator?
Before you progress further, let me put forward the case that startups from corporate backgrounds require slightly different thinking.
There are two key differences between a ‘traditional’ startup and a ‘corporate escape’ startup.
Without arguing the importance of speed-to-market, someone who has committed to his or her startup full time has whole bunch more time than a corporate employee maintaining a full-time job. The corporate startup is time-poor where the traditional startup has plenty.
However, the upside of keeping the day job means a regular stream of capital. It’s a position many startups would envy. A corporate escapee-in-waiting has more to play with and doesn’t have to go looking for investment to survive.
So, what kind of different thinking is needed? Here are five ways to help you get on the right train of thought.
#1 Failing fast becomes critical
Money you may be able to burn, but wasted time will kill. It becomes even more important to test your assumptions before you take the step of going to market.
#2 Accountability is vital
Focus will make or break your startup, but it’s hard when you have competing priorities. Quarantining specific times (Wednesday and Thursday evening, Saturday morning) to work on your startup is vital. Habit is your biggest ally. If you don’t feel you have the discipline to keep this going, join an entrepreneurial program or get a business coach to make sure someone keeps you accountable for making it happen. Frankly, if you also making a financial commitment to this, it will increase the likelihood you take it seriously. It’s a bit like pre-paying for a personal trainer to get fit. It’s harder to skip a session when you know it’s still costing you.
#3 Get good at outsourcing
If you don’t have the skills to do something or the time to learn, find someone who can. If you see something you like (a website, marketing campaign, product), find out who did it and make contact. Don’t freak out at the cost. Again, this is where being part of an entrepreneurial group is key. They are usually full of people who can recommend someone who can do what you need and how much you are likely to pay. In many cases, by connecting with recommended performers through eLance, oDesk and Freelancer, not only will you get stuff done that you don’t have time to do yourself, the results are going to be a lot better than your DIY effort.
#4 Commitments aren’t measured in hours
Hardened startup veterans might love the “give 150% percent of your life to your startup!” mantra, but that isn’t going to work when you have a day job to contend with. Don’t be made to feel that your lack of time or unwillingness to ditch a six-figure salary should be taken as a reflection of your lack of passion. However, you do need to be ninja-smart at managing your priorities. Time to sacrifice a few weeknights and weekends to make it happen, and you may also need to be brutal in culling activities from your schedule. Do a time audit by working out all the things you need to get done as part of your business, then work out a) which you must do, b) what you should stop doing and c) what you can pass over to someone else.
#5 Know your employment contract
Before you start creating the next big thing, you need to give your current employment contract a damn good going over. The areas you want to look for are around intellectual property, competition and non-solicitation. If you’re looking for further guidance around this, we can point you in the direction of this excellent article by Stephanie Singer of legal firm WilmerHale. You don’t want to announce the next big business idea only to have your unscrupulous former employer serve an IP claim on you before you get a chance to find out how good it could have been.
Stewart Bell is Managing Partner of Corporate to Freedom. He is one of Sydney’s top business coaches who have coached over 300 financial services firms and worked with the largest financial names in Australia like AMP, MLC, NAB, CBA, BT Financial Group, Suncorp and Zurich. He’s a keynote speaker and enthusiastic writer on the topic of business coaching who has featured in publications including The Financial Review, Money Management, Professional Planner, Risk Info, IFA and Kaplan Professional.