The Employed Founder’s Guide to Growing a Startup

By Fernando Berrocal

Being an entrepreneur can be dangerous; it can also be highly rewarding.  However, beginning a business with little to no economic resources might prove to be a dangerous decision in all scenarios. Keep in mind that 90% of businesses fail eventually, and 10% of them won’t even last a single year

Growing Your Startup

Clearly, working a regular job while developing your firm might offer some crucial financial and emotional stability for you and your family. This setup creates a bit of a conundrum: when you can't give your business all of your attention, how can it grow and evolve?

You might not have the financial means to devote all your time and energy to your startup in its early stages. While you are developing it, having a regular daily job might offer you familiar security. Being a full-time employee presents several difficulties for aspiring entrepreneurs, the greatest one being the psychological aspect–you must resist the temptation to view your startup as a “side job”.   Start by identifying the degree of success your startup will need to attain so that you can quit your regular job.  Then, work on increasing revenue. Next, we'll go through mental roadblocks that entrepreneurs encounter, and advise you on how to spend your time and resources effectively.

Venture Capital

There is a cognitive problem that several startup entrepreneurs end up facing. If you have a solid business concept, but lack the resources to cover your expenses, you should probably continue working at your current job. Work on your startup during the evenings and weekends until it becomes profitable. If you don't work hard at your job, someone will discover that you are dedicating more effort to an external endeavor. At your startup, the only person who can hold you responsible is you. Therefore, it shouldn't be a huge concern if you put off creating that crucial front-end feature or marketing campaign. This is how you end up working a day job for the rest of your life and treating your business as a side project. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with working while starting a business. The issue is a mentality that emphasizes the stability of that established revenue source. Growth, not security, should be your objective.  

Here are some strategies for concentrating on this principle:

  • Invest in the growth of the startup.  Treating your starting capital as a rainy-day fund is a security trap. Entrepreneurs save money instead of using it to get clients–and if you’re not getting them, your venture will fail. Many owners lack marketing training, and don't fully grasp its importance. They assume that a business website with an inviting catchphrase would be sufficient to generate sales. The fact is that you must put in the most effort in the early stages of your business to spread awareness of your business. You don't have any reviews on your website to show your valuation, and you don't have a loyal following helping to spread the word. If so, then you must invest in marketing to start producing leads. Even if you don't have much cash, you should make some sort of marketing investment. Put your business in front of potential clients by doing something practical, like sponsoring a related event, or acquiring social media advertisements.

Employed Founder Growing Startup

  • Choose a financial goal to aspire to. A quantifiable objective is the most effective approach to focusing on a goal. Analyze your startup’s costs and estimate how much you'll need to be earning from your business–before quitting your daily job. This figure might represent a monthly income goal, a per-project average, or a quarterly sales objective. You will be moving toward this objective while you are working toward the moment when you can break the lifeline that is your day job, you will eventually have more ambitious aspirations. Many entrepreneurs never take this action, despite having enough revenue to do so.

  • Automation of different tasks: Keep in mind that freeing up time to concentrate on your business is your medium-term goal. Automating your duties is one of the most effective methods until you can quit your regular job. Nowadays, running a one-person business is simpler than ever, since numerous software programs exist that may take care of tasks like organizing your email subscriber list or turning sales leads. You would need to probably start with the free versions of these tools. Others do require monthly payments, but if your money stream starts to expand, they're worth the investment.

  • Determine when to recruit employees.  At some stage, you'll likely need to develop beyond a one-person team. When it comes to growing your staff, timing is everything, and recruiting too late can be a mistake. Being responsible for someone else's livelihood is a major step up from being responsible for just yourself. Your business will suffer if you delay until you start missing deadlines or failing to complete duties. It's time to start recruiting whenever you've taken on so much work that you can't handle. However, it is possible to commit the opposite error. Some individuals would advise you to hire a worker as soon as you're working forty hours weekly. That sounds great, but as a founder, you should be prepared for some kind of burnout. Make sure there will be enough work for any new employees before hiring them. Before you start missing deadlines but after the likelihood of missing them starts to loom large is the sweet spot for hiring.

In retrospect, anticipating the day when you can quit your daily job is the key to expanding your business while working. Make that idea into a precise target, then focus all of your efforts on expanding your business toward achieving it. Invest in marketing, automation, and new hires until your business can support itself. Do not consider your current position to be your lifeline; think  of it as your runway.

Ready to bring your startup to the next level? Apply to MassLight’s next batch. MassLight supplies capital and a dedicated tech team. We take equity in return. Have questions? Refer to our FAQ page.

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