Friday, February 04, 2005

LBB Lesson - 2. Don't give up that day job!

Entrepreneurs are by nature optimistic, risk-taking, the-glass-is-half-full type people. You can't be anything else if you're going to start a business. Usually, this is absolutely great! It's this kind of an attitude that gives you the ability to slog on, with unwavering self-confidence when the chips are down and the outlook looks bleak. However, it's this very attitude that tends to blinds us to certain ground realities...

Namely, that it's going to take far longer to achieve profitability (and a living wage!) that you might think.

Thinking of starting a new venture? Make as pessimistic an estimate as possible about how long it's going to take for you to start making some decent dough... Now triple that span and maybe you're in the same ball-park as reality.

So you're going to need a steady revenue stream while you develop YATE (Yet Another Text Editor) or whatever. Of course, holding down in effect two jobs at the same time is going to be challenging (to say the least!), but whoever said shedding the fetters of wage-slave-hood was going to be easy?

You could live off your savings, however, continuing to work for someone else (either as an employee or a consultant) while you plan your own independence has some other, very important advantages:

  1. Networking: I think I've mentioned this before :-). In a nutshell, working alone can be injurious to your mental wellbeing! Well, OK maybe that's an over-reaction, but spending a lot of time obsessive working on The Next Big Thing isn't very healthy. In addition, if you cut yourself off from your peers, you're going to miss out on all those opportunities to make friends and influence people; the very people who might help you find the next, Next Big Thing.

    And I'd like to remind my reader, that when I use the word networking, I don't mean the slimy digging for contacts so beloved of sales people, but genuine friendships, based on mutual respect and affection...

  2. Inspiration: If you're cut off from potential customers and users, you're cut off from potential ideas for new products and features. You can't scratch someone's itch if you don't know they're itchy! Constant (maybe even grinding) contact with a multitude of clueless users is what's required to sensitise you to their situation. Cutting yourself off from them (and that's what's going to happen when you concentrate all your efforts on making and selling your products) is going to leave you the poorer for missing out on all that aggravation :-P

  3. Synergetic Partnerships: Who knows, while working for your current employer, you might get an idea for a product that complements his current spread of offerings, but isn't something he's interested in developing. He might however, be open to bundling your app with his or buying it outright.

    However, keep in mind that there is a fine ethical line that has to be trod here. It's fine to come up with something complementary or to inspired by some chance remark while on the job, it's definitely not OK to rip off your employers ideas or products.

So that it. The lesson to take away from here is that unless you've perfected the art of living off of air, you're going to need a steady revenue stream while you work on your product. You're going to have to work very hard, but hopefully, the rewards will be worth it.

You hope.

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