There are plenty of resources online that explain why you should be working for a startup, if you’re not already, so let’s go ahead and assume that you’ve made the plunge and you’re currently making far less than your experience and abilities should be bringing in. If you need convincing you should read this article by Richard Moran: “Should Everyone Work in a Startup?” This is not an article on abusing a position because they’re not giving you your dues. Instead what we’ll be looking at here is how to help the company you’re working for while improving yourself and getting ready to launch your own business.
Gaining the skills needed to succeed
A good startup generally needs someone who can step into many different roles quickly. They reward adaptability and creative thinking. Your experience tends to matter less than what you can accomplish for the company. A lot of startups let you gain experience in positions you might not be qualified for and push you to educate yourself. So the first thing you need to address at your job is – what skills are you acquiring day to day? Take advantage of this need for a self-educating employee, whether they provide you paid time to learn or expect you to pick up these skills on your own time doesn’t matter, just make sure you’re gathering those skills. Are you an expert in marketing communication, but never had to deal with Search Engine Marketing? Then that’s a good area to cover before you launch your own business and spend a fortune having someone else optimize your website. The more you can learn by observing someone else’s mistakes means you’ll make less yourself when the time comes.
Don’t go at it alone
Jobs at startups often attract exceptional talent. Young, bright, with new ideas. Those are the people that you should be working with. Make sure you know who they are and that they know you. Let them do you favors, lean on their strengths, and make sure you are seen as someone they can depend on in turn. These relationships can be crucial when your business launches. It might be something as simple as a quick call to an old co-worker who happened to know Excel like the back of her hand that saves you hours or even days of work. If you’re managing your social media right, you also have a way to reach disciplines that you don’t already cover. And of course there’s the opportunity to find partners or future employees. Now, I’m not recommending you poach anyone from the startup you’re working at, but rarely are startups permanent careers for anyone not sitting in the upper echelon of the organization so it never hurts to keep your ears open.
Thinking like a business owner
Ultimately, the best thing you can do for yourself and the startup you’re at is to stand out from the crowd. Take on the tasks that scare everyone else and make them work. This is the mentality of every successful entrepreneur I’ve ever met. They stand out from the crowd by doing, not just what they’re good at, but any task that needs to be done. Do this well and visibly and you’ll likely see yourself growing along with the business you’re working for. This is where you develop the mindset of a business owner rather than an employee – one of action instead of reaction. Most businesses fail before they ever begin because someone with a great idea tries to wait for something outside of themselves, which is what we’re trained to do at traditional jobs.
Defining your future plans
Here’s where things start to get more firm. You want to run your own business, but you likely haven’t done much more than chat with you friends over barbeque. Get a notebook and write everything down. You can take these in any order that seems right to you, but defining several things before you try to go straight to launch will save you time and sorrow later.
- Money: How much do you and anyone who currently depends on your income need to live? Check out this tool from MIT for more information. Once you have a figure – double it. That should be the first figure you’re looking at.
- What am I going to sell? Who will buy it? How much will they pay for it?
That last question is important; many people make the mistake of asking how much the thing they’re selling is worth. It should be obvious why that is the wrong question, but many people answer it anyway. The answers to these questions should be well researched with multiple sources backing them up.
These two points cover the big question which is – Can I start this business. If the answers to the second point gives you a number bigger than the first point then you have the potential for a business. Now comes the step that most potential business owners never take – starting. The rest of the planning should be tackled like any good job. You need to break down the tasks you need to accomplish, set deadlines, and get to work.
Identify potential hurdles early
There are three main areas where small businesses face hurdles: legal, financial, and personal. Legal hurdles are often overlooked by small business owners. You might find after a few months of work that you have a poorly constructed contract or don’t understand the new tax situations you’re entering, either of which can easily sink your new business. Get legal advice early. Many states have organizations that offer free legal advice or even consultations for small businesses. For more information check out the United States Small Business Association.
Financial hurdles tend to be the most obvious to small business owners, but potential solutions are often overlooked. There is the old favorite, bootstrapping – funding things entirely on your own. You could also go the traditional business loan method if necessary. Angel Investing or Venture Capital firms are becoming far more common, and are generally a safer method for the business. The firms provide funding based on a business proposal in return for a share in your business. This often comes with the added benefit of receiving business advice from experienced entrepreneurs. For more information on Angel Investing you can visit the FundersClub Education Center. Finally in recent years, crowdfunding has become a new way of funding startups. These tend to require a fairly major social media presence and a good deal of authority but in return are generally a risk free method to attempt to acquire starting capital for your business.
Personal hurdles are often set aside as not having anything to do with running a business, but in truth are just as important to consider as finances and legality. Putting together your own startup while working full time will suck in every moment of time that you permit it to. You’ll likely be losing sleep and canceling appointments. To everyone that knows you, odds are you’ll seem to be a completely different person. Make sure you talk to the people in your life that matters to you. You’ll want their support as you enter this new part of your life to keep your sanity. If you are upfront and let them know before things begin to pile up, it will help smooth things over and reduce the stress on both you and them.
Max Badesheim is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who wishes he was a better rock climber. He studied linguistics at Boise State University and rhetoric and Northern Arizona University. Currently he is researching search engine and social media marketing as he prepares for the launch of his first company. Follow him at @BadesheimM.
How To Make Your Startup Job Work For You
How To Make Your Startup Job Work For You
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