Keep their day jobs? Really? Stay with me a little while as I explain the rationale behind this piece of advice. Most people imagine great entrepreneurs as fearless risk-takers willing to put almost anything on the line to make their ideas succeed, regardless of how many people don’t see the promise their business idea holds. But taking an honest look at several great entrepreneurs proves this to be false. Bill Gates, Microsoft founder spent a year at Harvard AFTER selling his first program, Steve Wozniak, after inventing the Apple computer remained at Hewlett-Packard for a year. Even the founders of Google waited two years after making the search engine to leave Stanford and launch. This pattern among great inventors should give us pause and make us reevaluate the way we look at entrepreneurship. Does this mean young entrepreneurs are not the daredevils we formerly thought them to be? Are successful entrepreneurs human, after all? Do they sometimes play it safe like the rest of us?
The truth is, before starting a venture, regardless of how much you believe in it and how much faith you have that it will be insanely popular among your target demographic, a startup – especially in the beginning phases – is still very unstable and will need resources from your day job.
Here are 5 reasons why young entrepreneurs should keep their day jobs – at least in the beginning phases of their startups.
- Finish your business plan: A shocking number of young entrepreneurs drop everything and dive headfirst into their startup while it’s still half-baked, just because they’re excited by their idea and the promise they imagine it holds. While you still have a day job, draft a comprehensive business plan, map out marketing and strategic plans, test and re-test until you’re sure your business is the best it could possibly be. This process just might show you that your business idea is not viable at all. This is okay, better to discover this now and begin work on the next idea than quit your job and discover some months and your entire savings later that the business would never work.
- Test your product or service: Your projections could be astronomical: you could predict that revenue from your startup would hit the roof in the first week alone! Well and good. Now test your theory. On evenings and weekends, market your product and see what the actual returns are. As a young entrepreneur, don’t quit your job until you can make a fairly reliable estimate – based on some test – of the amount of sales you will be making and the profit you would generate.
- Get everything you can from your day job: Expanding your network and getting invaluable skills are just some of the things you can get from your day job that will make your startup run all that smoother. Experience is key in business and so is having a wide network in different fields which you can tap to the benefit of your startup. Aim for roles in the workplace that require you to handle more responsibility – it’s training for your entrepreneurial journey.
- Make important decisions without pressure: After losing their main source of income and primary means of survival, young entrepreneurs will make decisions out of desperation, rather than based on what is best for the business. This is not a good place to be in business because while you may still keep your head above water, you’re living on the money meant to be put back into the venture. This has the effect of slowing down the growth of the business, while starving it of the resources it needs.
- Quit your day job when it becomes too expensive: Only quit your day job when your startup has actually started making profit. Not just profit, but such profit that neglecting it for your day job is actually costing you money. When you see that your startup is able to generate more income than your day job with you present, then it could just be time to quit your job. As a young entrepreneur, your startup needs your financial stability more than your time or presence. Being financially stable allows you to do all the above and still have the support of your family and every other person who is financially reliant on you. Don’t quit your job just because you feel it’s time to do so. Quit your job when the alternative is better, ready and waiting.
Someone said quitting your day job to found a startup is like proposing marriage on the first date! 90% of startups fail, and the 10% that survive are started by young entrepreneurs that planned carefully and took the leap when they and the business were ready.