Many young entrepreneurs in training ask, “should I leave my day job so I can focus on starting my new company?”
It’s an age-old question in the business world, and more relevant than ever, especially considering all the layoffs happening as a result of a worldwide pandemic and shifting societal norms.
There are countless influencers, coaches and entrepreneurial thought leaders who encourage wantrapreneurs to “just do it”: Quit your job, chase the dream and build your empire.
But, maybe the question above needs more thinking before taking the plunge.
Sitting down with Jonathan Maxim, managing director at K&J Growth Hackers, and former tech founder, revealed some curious insights.
Profit First Teaches Good Business
“The daily headlines touting tech companies who get eight figure investments and rocket ship into Unicorn status has created a lottery mindset among a lot of young founders” Jonathan claims.
“But those are the 0.01% cases of startups, the other 99%+ fail, either because they never get venture capital funding, the space is too competitive, or the entrepreneur wasn’t ready for that kind of undertaking.”
Jonathan, who has founded four companies, used to work as a marketing strategist at a tech company with over 100,000 employees. He goes on, “when it comes to quitting your job to start your first company, it’s easy to become emotional. We see huge opportunity and can’t wait another minute. This breeds dissatisfaction with their day job and answering to “the man”. Soon enough, employees quit to become founders. But, many learn a hard lesson, and some lose everything in the process.”
Instead of imagining what could be (by starting a company) and taking the leap of faith; consider starting your company while you’re still employed. This helps in a number of ways:
- You have a consistent income to help subsidize startup costs
- You aren’t inclined to make rash decisions out of fear (not having enough money)
- You can test your idea at a small scale before going “all in”
- Allows you to focus on the primary goal of making your new venture profitable
Having consistency in your day to day makes it a lot easier to manage stress when things go wrong in the startup.
All Businesses Need Validation Before Making a Big Investment (of Time or Money)
Jonathan explains “we never know how our target market is going to take to our new business. Even surveys and qualitative questioning can be misleading. The only factor that really determines whether a business opportunity is worth chasing is to see whether customers actually buy, and whether that sale is profitable on a small scale. So, when we take on a new client at K&J Growth Hackers, we look for signs of product validation before committing to growing their business. If they don’t have it, we go find it.”
There are a lot of business ideas that sound solid during the due diligence process, but never make it anywhere.
So, if you can test a product’s viability before quitting your job, then you might save yourself years of work in vain.
The easiest way to test a product’s viability, and the process that K&J Growth Hackers follows is to:
- setup a simple, one page eCommerce store
- create a few ads on Facebook / Instagram
- spend around $1,500-$2,000 sending relevant traffic to the store
If you find that customers buy right away, and the sale value, profit margin and cost of ads make financial sense, then add more marketing budget and see if it continues to be profitable.
Why Jonathan Left the “Dream Job” And What He Learned
At age 27, Jonathan left his corporate job, which paid a handsome salary. As a contractor, he took home nearly double the cash of his full-time counterparts.
Upon departure, went to work full time on a fitness app that gives users rewards for working out. It’s a free app and is your standard issue “tech company”.
The plan was to build a massive audience of engaged users, and then either get acquired or take a large investment and scale.
But complex businesses like apps are difficult to monetize. They require extensive software development which draws out optimization timelines dramatically. And most importantly, it’s very expensive.
To that end, every company is hard to make profitable.
So, if the company costs a lot of money, and doesn’t generate a lot – the company runway gets short very quickly.
If he could go back, Jonathan explains “I would definitely have figured out how to make it profitable before leaving. There were so many valuable lessons I could’ve learned without the added financial pressure of not working full time.”
While his app ultimately grew to 25,000 users before taking an exit, the time used, and emotional toll could have been greatly reduced.
Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Day Job
As an entrepreneur you need focus, peace of mind, and longevity. When you eliminate your day job income, you sacrifice the latter two, and inherently the prior will go as well.
When finances get tight, peace of mind is lost to stress. When your financial runway runs short quick, longevity is at risk. If that happens, it’s tempting to grab for straws or chase shiny objects, costing you valuable focus.
The bottom line? Start with a simple business model, a single product and test its viability. If it in fact does make good money, then you can take the leap. But before that proof is there, you could end up spending a lot of time and money on something that never pays you back.