Don’t Quit Your Day Job… Just Yet.
Common rhetoric tells us to “dream big”, “reach for the stars” & “follow your heart”. There are a gazillion memes and Pinterest boards dedicated to inspiring the dreamer to “go for gold”. Yet at the same time, there’s been a massive assault on the ol’ 9-5 in the last decade with well meaning but rash slogans like “build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” (Never mind that your dream might require employees one day too…?!) While all these modern day proverbs are inspiring, they do leave out a critical aspect of pursuing any dream – seasons. Like Uncle Solomon said, “there’s a time for everything and a season for every task under the sun”. As creative dreamers it’s crucial to understand the life span of a dream. We often see the big picture but neglect the vital steps that will get us there. Usually because said steps include dull, hum-drum tasks like admin and a mind-numbing amount of planning. The sooner you recognize season of your dream you’re in (Preparation, Launch, Expansion etc), the sooner you can get on with it and be ready for graduation to the next season.
Part of being an entrepreneur is learning how to maintain the effervescent nature of a creative person while developing the skills necessary to keep the bubbles going during the times when our motivation wanes. While it’s tempting to “follow your heart” &“ take the plunge” there’s value in setting yourself up to win. Here are a few tips I wish I knew before I got started with Zathu:
a) Check your motives. So, your colleagues are annoying, you can never find parking and your boss refuses to pronounce your name properly and let’s not even talk about your salary! But, believe it or not, these are not reason enough to quit your job. While the ideal is to have a ‘dream job’, it’s important to accept that a dream job is not always a perfect job. Crazy bosses, difficult colleagues and less than desirable salary figures are treasures in themselves if we choose to see them that way. They teach us patience, perseverance, character and help us determine our own value systems – all qualities necessary for becoming a successful entrepreneur. If avoiding stress and trouble is your goal, you probably shouldn’t work for yourself.
b) Set a timeline. Unless you have a hefty nest egg tucked away for a rainy day, you might wanna determine how long it will take your start-up to begin seeing enough profit to match or exceed your current expenses? If it’s 6 months then you need to save up enough “pay checks” to cover you for the time when you won’t be earning a substantial salary. Don’t let the thought of 6 more months of the IT Guy nationalizing your yogurts or the creepy HR Manager flirting with you make you rush into the broke life. Rather, use the time wisely – work on things like your company name, logo’s, registration, Tax#, studies/training etc… there are plenty of foundational elements you can get cracking on while you wait for your “release date”.
c) Research, research, research. So you have a great idea or product that you just know is gonna change the world or make you a truck load of money. Your friends think it’s genius, your mama thinks it’s divinely inspired, everything points to success…or does it? This is where you’ve gotta ask yourself the hard questions. Will anyone other than my [deceptively supportive] friends and family buy what I’m selling? Is there anyone else already doing what I want to do, and at what level? What will it cost me to offer my service/make my product? Where will I get that money? Am I willing to sell my body…okay maybe not that but understand that being an entrepreneur starts long before you ever sell your 1st product or service – like any structure, it begins with a solid foundation. And knowing what you’re working with is a great place to start.
d) Know Your Why. People start businesses for many different reasons, let’s look at three: On one hand, you get #TeamAltruistic – the idea of helping people and adding value to their lives is more important than [just] making money. They’re not in it for the cars and designer brands but rather they’re about being part of a wider circle of purpose. Conversely, #TeamMakeItRain place value in a certain standard of living and see their ideas/skills as a way to achieve and maintain that standard. They too have a circle of purpose, it’s just a little tighter than their counterparts. And then you get #TeamInBetween – Definitely got love for the people but don’t mind making a little sumn’-sumn’ for their troubles. This is often the most frustrated group I’ve found – while it’s great to have balance, when it comes to business – focus, in whichever direction, is key! Decide upfront what your values are – these might change later – but it’s vital to start with a tunnel vision idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing ‘cause that’s what will fuel your energy and ethos going forward.
Guys, being an entrepreneur is stressful enough, so do whatever you can to make sure you’re not fighting your own systems (or lack there of). Embrace the embryo stage of your dream. Nurture it, feed it and whatever you do, don’t crack open the cocoon before it’s ready to fly.
Yours in season,