Trying before you buy or finding a similar business where you can work, is incredibly helpful. If you’re truly innovative and there are no industry comparisons available, at least protect your downside by continuing your current job and work after hours on the new project.
This helps you maintain perspective, while giving you a continuing reason to start a new venture. Also, it provides a paycheck and a fallback position if it fails or takes longer to gain traction. It’s the old adage, “Don’t quit your day job.”
A long time ago, I started an urgent care center. At that time, there were very few of them in the U.S., so it was slow going. We had to educate the payers and the patients on just what an urgent care facility could do.
Also, we were cash poor. The biggest expense was paying the medical providers. To that end, my partner and I were free labor, so together we covered about 70% of the shifts for the first year or so. While this was great for our cash flow, I still needed to make a living.
Fortunately, I was able to keep my “day” job. It wasn’t actually during the day; it was working the night and some weekend shifts in the emergency department. The urgent care center wasn’t open at night, so I was able to go in and do a 12-hour emergency shift, which allowed me to keep food on the table, support the urgent care facility, and use the “Try before you buy” method.
Save for sleep deprivation, this worked incredibly well. Twenty-five years later, I still approach new ventures the exact same way. The downside is that it doesn’t allow you to commit your full time and attention to building the next great thing or to your current job. In addition, effectively adding another job wreaks havoc on your personal life. Over time, this can be mentally and physically exhausting.
Here are some tactics I found to make this period less onerous:
- Build a detailed plan and conservative timeline. As the adage goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Neither is the next great thing. The more detailed your plan and more conservative your timeline, the less likely you’ll be overwhelmed if some deadlines get missed, in as much as you’ll have some cushion to catch up.
- Block time for yourself and your family. Make this time completely protected. Even if it’s just a few hours a week, turn off all devices and focus on what’s most important.
- Be frugal. Now is not the time to buy materialistic things. You’re working two jobs so you eventually can do anything you want. Wait for it. Save as much as you can and hope the rainy day never comes.
- Hire help. This is not the time to have a big ego. There are plenty of consultants who likely know a lot about what you’re trying to accomplish. Trust your gut but check their references.
- Get enough exercise and sleep. Do not forgo daily habits. This is a short term only strategy. Lack of sleep and exercise will ultimately make you less productive and efficient.
- Be incredibly organized. Being organized takes a bit more effort up front but will save hours on the back end. Also, it helps you increase your efficiency.
- Have all the legal and organizational documents completed and signed early. Doing this avoids the distraction of trying to rush it or find it if someone wants to invest.
- Pick your partners. A great partner can really save you when starting a new business. Conversely, a bad one can make your life miserable. Do as much research as possible before signing any agreement.
- Document everything. Lack of documentation can bite you in the future when you want to expand or sell, or when there’s a dispute about who did what and the value of their work product.
The startup phase is absolutely the most fun you can legally have. It can also be the most trying and challenging and often separates the doers from the talkers. However, if well thought out, many of the challenges can be mitigated, while still enjoying the adrenaline that a new project produces.