When To Keep Your Day Job and NOT Start A Business.

When To Keep Your Day Job and NOT Start A Business.

factory punch clockIn the last episode of Startup Daddy, Scott Stratten got me thinking about why someone should consider not starting a business. He said that nobody really talks about it and he’s right.  So I’m saying it now. You may not be cut out to be an entrepreneur.  If you’re not, you should not start your own business.  If you hate your job, get another job.  Here are some things you need to consider before you take even one sip of the entrepreneurial Kool-aid.

  • Starting a business is risky.

Starting and owning your own business can be very risky.  Of course the case can be made that in today’s corporate environment, it’s even riskier to have a job controlled by others, but that’s not important right now.  It’s one thing to have a business that provides supplemental income, but it’s another universe when your family’s present and future is depending on you and you alone.  If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you should not quit to start a business!

One of my best friends is way smarter than I am, but when he was faced with a career crossroads recently he decided not to hang his shingle.  He was not comfortable with putting his family’s financial future at risk.  He made the absolutely right decision for him and found another job.  He hates the BS that accompanies all corporate jobs, but he was self aware enough to realize that going off on his own was a wrong move for him.

  • Starting a business is scary.

This goes with the whole risky thing, but it’s very scary to break out on your own and start your own business.  You often need to rely on others, be they employees, suppliers, or of course, customers.  What if you get sick or hurt?  What if your market suddenly changes? (Think twitter and 3rd party developers right now).  What if you have to learn to do things you’ve never done before?  There is an endless list of things an entrepreneur lives with that will keep you up at night if you are not cut out for it.  Now I’ve been known to jump out of a plane or pick our two year old up over my head while she’s not wearing a diaper, so I’m cool with scary.  You need to be really honest with yourself though.  If you are uncomfortable with the unknown and the scary, you should not start a business.

  • Starting a business is hard!

Forming a company is easy, but starting a business and keeping it going, is hard.  This stuff takes a lot of work.  There’s no time clock in this world and even if you have an office to leave, you never really leave your work behind.  To maintain your sanity, you find a way to put it out of your mind or at least turn down the volume from time to time, so you can be present with your family and friends when you spend time with them.  For the most part though, your entire day is spent on or thinking about your business.  This is especially true in the beginning, but for me, it never goes away.  If you like to watch TV, read for pleasure, have hobbies, take quiet walks on the beach, you should not start a business.

  • Nothing can FULLY prepare you to start a business.

I don’t care of you go to business school, read books, attend seminars, or listen to podcasts about starting a business, nothing will fully prepare you for it.  You don’t have to be an expert at everything, but you do need to know about all of the aspects of running your business.  You need to know at least a bit about sales, marketing, advertising, accounting, human resources, local regulations and tax considerations, public relations, IT, the list goes on.

You don’t need to know everything before you start, but you’d better be able to learn fast.  Even if you outsource these things or hire people to do them, if you don’t familiarize yourself with all of the aspects of running your business you are asking for trouble.  If you can’t handle going in blind sometimes, and be confident you can learn as you go, starting a business isn’t for you.

  • There’s nobody there to tell you what to do.

Whether you look at this as good or bad, is a great entrepreneurial litmus test (if you’re honest with yourself).  Sure, you can and should have trusted advisers to guide you when you need it, but when you start your own business you need to blaze your own path.  You need to make your own decisions.  Some people work better with a narrow scope of responsibility.  Some people like being able to check action items off a to-do list, and bolt out of the office at 5:00 on the dot.  There is nothing wrong with that, and if you are one of these people, you should not start a business.

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur

So there you have it.  Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur.  If someone is selling a course, or a seminar, or a book, and saying they can teach anyone how to start a business, without any prior experience or skills, I say, “Run, Forrest!”  No, you don’t need experience, but you most certainly need skills.  Your toolbox had better have at least some combination of common sense, life experience, industry knowledge, and let’s face it, cojones.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Thanks for the information, Ian.

    Well after being in my engineering business for 1 year now, and working on several other ideas, I certainly hope that I am cut out to be an entrepreneur!

    I am truly thankful to still be “afloat” and have some work during a slow period. I think one reason I was able to do well was a combination of being blessed, fortunate, and being disciplined. When I did get some work, I did not blow the revenue. I have a name for every dollar I make, and I think that really helps. In fact, I use the cash flow spreadsheet you have in your sign-up box, and that has helped plan out the lean (and fat) months. This is one way to help with the risk aspect of things you mention.

    • Andy, you obviously have the chops. Congratulations on your first year!
      I'm glad you found the financial templates helpful. Cash flow is the most
      important financial concept for any entrepreneur, and you're right, doing
      that analysis can squash some of that fear by quantifying the risk. Thanks
      for sharing the ideas!

  • I have a friend of mine, he is a system administrator in a bank.

    He has an interesting 'defending' tactic: he claims he wants to start a business (it's the 2-nd year of claiming so), but all 'ideas' are bad for him. All he has been doing for these years is reading business ideas sites and blogs and marking all ideas as 'not suitable'. And nothing else.
    You can easily conclude from this that he is simply scared to start a business.

    So, you are definitely right.

    • Not everyone is cut out for this, and that's a good thing ;)

  • 100% Accurate….

  • Good article. I'd like to leave the security of my daily for my home business (web design), but I'm not there yet. I think I should set some clear goals and milestones to better achieve this, but the fear is sometimes overwhelming. In an odd way, it was nice to hear that nothing will fully prepare you to start a business.

  • Khayrs Paradise

    I Agree 100%

  • Omar

    haha so true

  • D.

    Last year I left my job to start up web based business and that was a risk.Ran out of cash and have to go back to work to make living while looking for funds to finish the project and launch.It is stressful but I still enjoy that.To me that is positive stress that motivates me.I don’t mind getting up in the middle of the night just to check few things and having a new ideas about design,learning fast and a lot about all aspects of running the business.I just feel that is my thing to do.I think you have to have a great beleif, determination and hard work to make it through.
    All that has been said here is very true and honest.One should appreciate it.I am so glad that I have found this web site.

  • Germangs2006

    Amazing advice! Thanks so much.