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Future Entrepreneurs: Don't Quit Your Day Job

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So you have a brilliant idea for a company.

Your friends have already started jokingly calling you Zuckerberg, Jobs or Gates.

You've carefully chosen the card stock of the business cards you'll print.

Great!

But you shouldn't quit your day job.

Or at least, not yet.

Many accomplished entrepreneurs recommend that you quit your day job in order to become an entrepreneur. I disagree. You don't have to quit your day job to start a new project; you do when it is time to scale it.

I didn't quit my day job, until SoapBox was ready to scale. Actually, the story is a little more complex, but for simplicity's sake, we'll stick to the basics.

The founding team of SoapBox continued to build the company during evenings and weekends for two years, until Whole Foods finally conceded to our begging (repeated phone calls, desperate emails, and round the clock store visits) and allowed us to shelve one trial store. Even then, the Soapbox team didn't go full time until after months of increasing the amount of stores that were selling our products.

The problem with the "chips all in" mentality is that you actually might kill your startup before it even has a chance to grow. Jumping to full time right out of the gate shortens your runway significantly, and early entrepreneurs need to elongate the tarmac as much as possible.

In order to give your baby (as startups are always someone's child) as much time to grow, hold off until you've exhausted your ability to scale up the company during your nights and weekends.

I've seen countless ventures fail because the founders jump too soon. And they fail because it takes too long to pivot, start making revenue, or pass the validation stage before they have to return to a steady revenue stream in order for them to pay their electricity bills. The stress of developing a "David"-sized project against an industry of "Goliath" corporations is already burdensome enough; don't add more to your plate by making a full-time commitment before your baby is ready to grow.

You also need to prepare for being your own boss. While it sounds ideal, if you've never been 100 percent in charge of your own schedule (college doesn't count), then transitioning to full-time employment might actually hurt your venture's growth. While still employed at your nine-to-five job, start building your self-regulation by clocking eight-hour workdays for your startup on the weekends. And spending a day on logo design doesn't count!

When your company starts to produce quantifiable metrics (repeat revenue, returning traffic, larger accounts) and you no longer can take calls in the office bathroom (yes, I've done this), then it is time to make the leap from employee to employer.

So before you turn in your two weeks notice, make sure your entrepreneurial venture is sustainable and can afford to sustain you.