You have to eat, right? How about have a decent place to lay your head at night? What about bills — have any? Likely yes, and those are only going to grow once you factor in all your new startup costs. Point being: you need to make sure you have enough money in the bank to sustain yourself for x amount of days (but more likely months), until (or if) your business is able to start generating revenue. So bust out that spreadsheet and start calculating all your must-have expenses, and then ask yourself: How am I going to pay for all of this without a steady income from a 9–5 job?
This one’s pretty straight forward. Your health is the most important thing to this whole “Should I keep my job, or should I do my own thing?” conundrum. Without your health, you can kiss both your 9–5 and founder aspirations goodbye. So it’s important to take an honest assessment of your current and anticipated medical needs. Walking away from your employee health benefits can be a risky move, so you’re going to want to investigate your health insurance options as a startup founder and budget that line item into your expenses spreadsheet.
My guess is that you’re not the only person in your life. Perhaps you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife? You may even have children, and you definitely have friends (maybe even more than you’re able to keep up with). The point is, there are likely people in your life who either depend on you and/or look forward to spending time with you.
As a founder, you’re no longer going to have the luxury of clocking in at 9 and out at 5; you’re going to be putting in serious hours to get your business off the ground, and it will (trust me, it 100% will) have an impact on your relationships. Whether or not the people in your relationships are ready and/or willing to stick around to feel that impact is something you may want to find out before you decide to make the decision to become a full-time founder. (Here’s the truth about running your own company).
Ok. We’ve covered money, health, relationships. Now it’s time to talk about responsibilities. Ask yourself: What other responsibilities do I have aside from my 9–5 job? Perhaps you’ve already committed to play in the Wednesday night company kickball league, maybe you’re in the middle of remodeling your home, or perhaps you have certain chores you committed to getting done on specific days of the week. Whatever your responsibilities, it’s important to take an inventory of them. This will help you get a clear sense of how much is already on your plate and what, if anything, you can afford to remove and/or modify to make room for your new company. You’re only one person and there’s only 24 hours in a day, so something’s going to have to give.
Alright. This is the moment of truth. Why do you want to do a startup? Because you’re fired up to solve a particular problem? Because you think you have the next big idea? Because you want to be filthy rich? Because you want to be your own boss? Because you think it’ll give your life meaning? Because…
The list of reasons can go on and on, but this is the most important thing you need to reflect on when considering whether or not to start your own company. The fact of the matter is that 92% of startups fail within 2 years. Yup, you read that right. Your startup only has an 8% chance of living on past year two and that percentage continues to decrease with each subsequent year. Soooo….I’ll ask again: Why do you want to sign up for one of the hardest things you could ever possibly do? I don’t know. But you better know. So think about it. Think about it long and hard. Get crystal clear, because your why is the biggest thing that’s going to push you through the massive challenges you will surely face en route to your mountaintop.
“But what about my business, specifically? How do I know if I have an idea that can be successful?”
For this post, I intentionally didn’t get into the nitty gritty details of all the business aspects that need to be considered when deciding whether or not to go full-time with your company. For instance,
- Have you confirmed your understanding of the problem you’re aiming to solve? (vs. building a solution and then trying to find a problem to attach it to, which is a common approach I see, but not the right one).
- Have you decided if you’re building a startup or a small business?
- Have you recruited a co-founder or a few early teammates to round out your skill sets and help you divvy up the workload?
- Have you launched an MVP?
- Have you gotten traction with real users, even paying customers?
There are countless questions you need to ask yourself to confirm the validity of your business model, but much of that content is already available online (here’s one post that may help). So for this post, I wanted to focus the attention on topics that aren’t always top of mind for those considering taking the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship. These are topics that I believe are crucial to your success as a founder, but also vital to your happiness as a person.
Ultimately, making the decision to leave your cushiony job to start your own company can be scary — and it should scare you! You’re considering leaving everything you know to venture into the unknown + you’re attempting to bring something into this world that doesn’t yet exist. Yeah that’s really hard stuff right there and it’s going to take serious serious work to pull off.
So my parting advice to you is this: calculate the pros and cons, compare the opportunity costs vs the risk costs, talk to some people who are already doing what you’re attempting to do, get their input, and then…
Make a decision and act.
There will never be a perfect time to start; there will never be a perfect time to start going after your dreams. You simply have to start. Success is achieved by persevering despite imperfect situations and tough odds. So, if you’re up for that, you may be more ready than you think to finally take the leap!