I can’t tell you why but somehow I found myself on Fortune.com (December 28, 2015) and found an article entitled “The Best Way to Run a Startup With a Full-Time Job” by Belma McCaffrey, co-founder and CEO of Bould.
The article was pretty interesting…interesting enough to get me to go to the Bould.com website. A pretty cool concept…a Blue Ocean perhaps…and even if not, at least you get to do your own thing (“create a career you love,” as the Bould website states).
And why was I captured by this? Because almost forty years ago, the “fear, anxiety, guilt, office politics and negative talk” that Ms. McCaffrey references was also affecting me. I was in corporate America, had a pretty important marketing job, but I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be in my own business. And I didn’t care if it was a nursery, a lumberyard or even a hardware store…anything that allowed me to run something, a business…to get out of corporate politics and be my own person. So I went looking and looking and looking.
My exit from corporate life happened almost by accident
As luck would have it, I had a neighbor (can you call someone a neighbor if he lives 2 miles down the road?). He was a scientist and had developed a reading test in the K-12 assessment space that was very sound. He asked me to join him; I could make an investment in the new company, keep my day job and run the finances at night. Just like Ms. McCaffrey talked about…running a startup with a full-time job.
That appealed to me because I had two very young children, a wife completing her PhD and a mortgage to pay. So I could keep my day job, which generated income, and invest in my future with a combination of cash and sweat equity.
That worked pretty well for about 10 years as I climbed the corporate ladder in banking and did some real estate investing. At some point, life becomes confusing and you need to be more focused around one business.
When was I going to go full-time into the assessment business? This decision was really made for me — Not by design, not because of a vision, but because my partner (the scientist-neighbor) died. It was either commit full-time to the fledgling business or let it flounder. This was not really a difficult decision because of my desire to run something without a boss, and because we had already achieved modest sales. We also had about 16 employees and a breakthrough product.
So here I was, finally…running a business that I had not envisioned in a category I really didn’t know much about — I had just ran the finances. Yet, over the next twenty years, we built an important business in a category that was going through significant change with “No Child Left Behind” and the “Common Core.”
Stay agile and be prepared to shift according to changing times
Here, I would like to circle back to some of the comments Ms. McCaughey made in her Fortune.com article. Although the category is different, the discipline is the same: “Stay positive and committed to create a foundation for moving forward.”
What does this mean? Perhaps in a bigger picture, understand that your foundation will or could shift over time. What you initially envision isn’t necessarily where you are going to end up. Building something is not always a straight path. Where you start, particularly in this rapidly changing world, is not where you necessarily end up. And 20 years down the road is a long time.
Thus, the academic assessment company I retired from four years ago is very different than where we started. The original concept was greatly influenced by both the internal and external environments existing at the time. Times and environments change, constantly, which means you need to digest new information and recreate—constantly.
Wholeheartedly, I echo what Ms. McCaffrey has written. Starting your own business is great…either full-time or at night. I built a successful company over time…acquired some bruises along the way…but I don’t regret it for a minute.
Perhaps you can learn from my own trials and errors
Over the years, I have written a number of blogs discussing startups, the sacrifices and juggling they require, and the satisfaction and rewards they bestow. To help you on your own journey, here are what I call the “Big Eight” issues and concepts you should think about before embarking on your adventure:
- Think Big
- Have a common culture
- Try not to be under-capitalized
- It’s all about people
- Figure out how to motivate smart people
- Be a lateral thinker
- Understand the numbers…they run the world
- Try to have a life outside of business
For specifics, here’s a sample of some of my blogs which focus on these same ideas:
1. Eight Things to Consider When You Start a New Venture
2. Keys to Success: Points 1 & 2
3. Keys to Success: Points 3 & 4
4. Keys to Success: Points 5 & 6
5. Keys to Success: Points 7 & 8
With that said, Belma McCaffrey really has an exciting and ambitious journey and I wish her well.
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