Q: How can I manage a job that pays the bills along with the first stages of growing a business that won't show profits for at least six months?
- Brittany N. Bluford
A: Balancing a fulltime job with starting up can be a huge challenge, but it’s often necessary to support yourself while you prepare to launch your business. It’s important to know that entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, because everyone’s not emotionally and financially equipped to handle the risks. But if you are willing to dig in, put in the work, time, effort, and sacrifice required to make something sing, listen up -- greatness may be yours for the taking.
Here’s a look at three separate paths to entrepreneurial greatness.
1. Some are born great. Truth be told, I have friends who were born into entrepreneur-friendly environments, and the road to entrepreneurship for them was never a question of “if,” but rather, “what.” Think Trump kids here. As nauseating and unfair as this may seem, these “born into greatness” types often have a much easier time getting a business started because they have the full support of families, both immediate and extended.
This support may come in the form of seed capital, business resources, and a built-in cheering squad. This system typically allows them to leisurely stroll out of college into their own business without having to think much about how they will pay their bills as they build a profitable business. The one caveat: born greats are often under an immense amount of pressure to perform as their dynasty and legacy depend on it.
2. Some achieve greatness. The vast majority of entrepreneurs, myself included, fall into this category. We possess the entrepreneurial spirit to pursue a vision and dream, but we did not grow up in entrepreneurial environments and did not have the financial means to build something without having a job. In essence, we are “the hustler.” We may spend decades honing our spirit without necessarily having the tools or resources to dump everything and relentlessly pour every waking hour into building our business.
However, with focus and dedication, slowly over time, we become masters of a specific skill and eventually find our place among the innovators. There is no shame in following this road. The only thing required is a continual evaluation of forward movement. Think of it as a three-year formula:
Year one: Conduct exploration and research. Develop your business plan and put aside money.
Year two: Test your idea. Read Eric Ries’ book The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, and keep putting aside money.
Year three: Launch your business knowing it will take another two years to truly understand if your model is working. You may have to still work a “regular” job during this time.
This formula is similar to how any funded startups would approach a launch, although typically they don’t take three years to complete the cycle -- more like about eighteen months. The key difference is you do not have the luxury of drawing a salary from the business and the ability to focus solely on the task at hand.
3. Some have greatness thrust upon them. Two words: Mark Zuckerberg. This is a prime example of a zit-faced college dropout who had enough computer science skills and quirky, somewhat off-putting, business savvy, to rapidly build one of the world’s most watched companies. It’s not that he didn’t work hard, or that he didn’t put vast amounts of time into pursing his vision while making sacrifices, but this level of entrepreneur royalty is reserved for a select few.
We read inspirational stories about kids like Zuck, but the truth is his story is rare and does not equip most aspiring entrepreneurs or business owners with the correct mentality. He is an outlier, an anomaly.
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