Is It Time To Quit Your Job And Start Your Own Business
As someone who’s done it before, I can confirm that there aren’t many things more fulfilling, exciting or scary than quitting your job to start your own company.
For all those of us who are entrepreneurs at heart and who have held positions at companies that weren’t ours, quitting our jobs to start a company is a dream most us have shared. We’ve heard countless stories of brave guys and gals who took risks by leaving their jobs and struck it rich by starting their own company.
However, I promise you the majority of these stories you hear tend to leave out the part that those entrepreneurs were working on those same businesses on the side for months or even years before quitting their jobs.
My co-founders and I quit our jobs on February 19th, 2015 to attend astartup accelerator and work on Benchmark Intelligence full-time. However, we first started working on Benchmark part-time back in August 2015, over 6 months before we quit our jobs. That means for a whole 6 months, my co-founders and I would work on average 50 hours per week at our then-employer’s business and an additional 30 hours on Benchmark at night and on the weekends.
My story is not unique. Many successful entrepreneurs worked on their businesses part-time for several months or years before making the transition to full-time entrepreneurship.
If you’re thinking about leaving your job to start a company, here are some things to keep in mind before taking that leap of faith.
Do Your Best To Validate Your Concept
Quitting your job to start a company is super risky. Quitting a job to start a company that you haven’t even attempted to validate is extremely chancy, and quite frankly, it’s dumb. When I say “validate the concept,” I don’t necessarily mean the business has to have 100 customers, but you should find a way to make sure your company solves a real pain point, even if it means the only way you can discover it is by asking potential customers.
During those six months we worked on Benchmark part-time, we were able to build a prototype and get customers (b2b) to use the product for free. Even though we didn’t have a real product (just a prototype) and we didn’t have any paying customers (just businesses using it for free), this practice still validated a couple of things for us: A) that we can probably build this product we thought of and B) that someone was willing to use our product to solve a pain point of theirs but wasn’t ready to pay for it yet. We then quit our jobs so that we could find out if anyone would be willing to pay for this service and were able to validate exactly that.
The method you use to validate your own business concept doesn’t have to be the same as mine. If it’s something that requires a lot of capital and you can’t start building anything yet, then have interviews with potential customers to see if your solution is something they could see themselves paying for. If you get a handful of these, then you’ve at least validated your business concept on some sort of level. Now you can quit your job with a little more peace of mind.
Create A “Leap Of Faith” Milestone
My co-founders and I didn’t quit our jobs one day just because we felt like it or because we came up with an idea that very day. As mentioned above, we did our best to validate our concept but more importantly we hit our “leap of faith” milestone, which was being accepted into a startup accelerator.
A leap of faith milestone just means a milestone that you create for yourself and your team so that if you hit that milestone, you have to make the transition to full-time entrepreneurship. We set up our leap of faith milestone four months before we hit. Our milestone consisted of us either a) getting an investment or b) getting accepted into an accelerator. Luckily, in our case, we hit both of those in one.
Your leap of faith milestone can be similar to ours or completely different. Maybe your milestone is to finish building your minimum viable product (MVP) or to get your first paying customer. This milestone can vary determining on how risk-averse you are. It can be as risky as just finding a co-founder or as risk averse as raising a whole seed round before taking the leap of faith.
Setting up a leap of faith milestone is really important because it gives you a goal to work towards and helps you keep you focus on accomplishing that. When you’re starting a business while you still have a full-time job, your most important asset isn’t money, because you have income from your day job. Your most important asset is your time because you have so little, as you dedicate the majority of your time to your job. Therefore, creating a leap of faith milestone allows you to be intently focused with the little time you have in order to accomplish that goal.
The one caveat is that once you hit your leap of faith milestone, you have to do exactly what you promised and quit your job. Many of us will never quit our jobs, because quite frankly we are scared. However, when we make a promise to ourselves via a leap of faith milestone, we’re much more likely to follow through.