Lifestyle Modification to be an Entrepreneur

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Last week I spent some time talking to the entrepreneur that I mentioned before that has his entrepreneurial desires trapped by the American dream of home ownership. This young professional has a business idea, two co-founders, a mortgage, and a finance background with no software development experience. I asked him where he’s spending his time outside his day job and he said there wasn’t much for him to do since he wasn’t a developer. Naturally, I told him that he should roll up his sleeves and learn HTML, CSS, and PHP or Ruby and get to work on developing his skills since software engineering is just like finance where you solve logic puzzles according to given rules.

The real heart of the conversation came when he said he was going to continue helping out part-time on the business until they made enough progress to pay himself a salary and go full-time. I said that wasn’t a good approach because his goal is to be an entrepreneur noe and building a business on the side is going to significantly prolong the amount of time it’ll take before he makes enough progress for it to be his full-time job. A startup isn’t a part-time job (see Rob Kischuk’s comments on trying to get funding while still having a day job). I said he should view it like wanting to be a doctor — plan for four years of med school and a couple years of residency and you’ll have the right mindset. That’s right, he needs to modify his lifestyle now by cutting back his expenses and selling his house so that his spouse can support him without his income and plan for working full-time for the next six years, likely on multiple business ideas or pivots, before he’ll be back to where he is now in terms of income and ability to go on vacation for a week and not have to worry about anything. That’s a serious commitment, and not one to be taken lightly.

What else? Do you agree a serious lifestyle modification will help him be a successful entrepreneur sooner?

11 thoughts on “Lifestyle Modification to be an Entrepreneur

  1. I think the first question is whether he has the right team chasing a significant market with at least a plan for a product that has a shot at being successful. Preferably they have mentors and/or advisors around them to keep them on a good track. I’ve seen all too many entrepreneurs take the financial plunge without these other pieces in place. The result is financial destruction, poor career progress and learning, and nobody around to tell them when to throw in the towel. A healthy funding environment can help by signaling to a team whether their business is progressing adequately. Of course revenue can do the same.

    Every prospective entrepreneur should plan to tighten their belt financially and prepare for massive lifestyle change as they start a company, though the spouse-sponsored route may not always be an option. Not every business should be full-time on day 1, every day not spent full-time is an opportunity for the market to pass you by.

  2. “Do you agree a serious lifestyle modification will help him be a successful entrepreneur sooner?”

    Without a doubt. I like your analogy to medical school as well.

    On the other hand, I somewhat question if deep down he really is an entrepreneur. I think your advice would already have been obvious to him without the need for you to give it if he really was; he wouldn’t be able to think about anything else besides his business and he would have already have come to realize that to succeed he needs to do it full time.

    I often think that part-time entrepreneurs are really only “wantrepreneurs” (which I hope no one takes offense to); they like the idea of being an entrepreneur without knowing what it takes. When it comes right down to it the security of the salary and the accouterments of the middle class life are just too much to give up.

  3. @Mike: i don’t like to judge or question anyone’s intention of being an entrepreneur or taking a risk. Not everyone knows the logical steps. I do agree with the last paragraph that the security of the salary is sometimes hard to fore go.

    But, it is important to plan ahead, have the right team and the right advisers. After all entrepreneurship is not in the idea, but the execution.

  4. Don’t think you need tech skills but you have to know how to find someone who does. As the CEO you job actually has very little with the day to day. Just make sure you know Tge market, product, needs and positioning better then anyone. The best way to be a great entrepreneur is like anything, practice every chance you get. Also, wait as long as possible to leave your job as it always takes twice as long and are twice as expensive as you think. Failing because you run out of cash would really suck. In my role. I want to be the Dave of the company and hire people better then me to activate the strategic vision.

  5. I know people who are making it work part-time, although they’ve built lifestyle businesses… by choice. If you’re trying to build a growth company, then I think you need to burn the boats.

  6. @MK – Hope I didn’t come across as “judging”, more just recognition that a person who is working part time is unlikely to achieve their grand vision unless they at least have a definitive timeline for when part-time ends, and tangible milestones to achieve for them to reach full-time. It’s much like looking on to a teenager who claims he wants to play basketball in the NBA, but who doesn’t spend every free waking moment practicing drills on the court. Sure their is still a chance their will achieve their vision but it is highly unlikely. Further, my opinion that they are unlikely to succeed doesn’t block them from trying, it just helps me decide if I’ll put forth any of my effort to help them succeed or not.

    And to be clear, I was not talking about a lifestyle entrepreneur but instead one thinks of themselves as a innovative startup entrepreneur where “startup” is defined as “identifying a yet-to-exist business model and/or launching an existing model in a new market where the model hasn’t currently been used.” As for lifestyle entrepreneurs, yeah, part time can work great.

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