One Startup. No Secrets. Start at the beginning.
*This post was originally written for Inc.com*
Casey is incredibly talented, smart, and has a knack for figuring things out. That said, he has no prior entrepreneurial experience. He has no trust fund or family inheritance to fall back on. Having lived in the income-sucking city of New York for the past nine years, he doesn't exactly have a plush savings account either.
So imagine my surprise when I read an email from Casey a few weeks ago saying, "I've thought a lot about this, I can't keep sacrificing the thing that excites me for the thing that pays my bills. I'm giving my notice so I can focus full-time on MixedMade."
Here are the issues that Casey is up against, and the questions you need to ask yourself before taking the leap:
1. You can't afford to pay your salary
At current rates, we need to increase revenue 7X to generate enough profit to pay Casey a reasonable salary. Yes, you read that correctly, we would need 700 percent growth.
Of course, Casey feels this pressure, but the pressure on the business, and on me, is also much greater now that someone's livelihood is dependent.
Does that type of pressure excite you?
2. You don't have the resources to invest in necessary growth
We have almost no cash to invest in growth. On paper, we are profitable. But the numbers are small, so we'll have to get creative to see that significant lift in sales.
Our recent profits have allowed only the simplest growth investments: business cards for Casey, a Zipcar membership to pick up raw materials and deliver our product more quickly, and an entry for Shwick, our first paid event.
What resources will you have? What resources will you need?
3. Being your own boss isn't what it seems
Just because you don't have to answer to "the Man" anymore doesn't mean you answer to no one. Whether it's your board, investors, customers, vendors, or even your family, prepare to exchange your current boss for a set of new "bosses."
At this stage, Casey answers to our partners and our customers. Granted, his hours are more flexible, but it's a far cry from sitting in the corner office with his feet on the desk.
Who will your new "boss" be?
4. You're not following your passion
Passion does not breed mastery. Mastery breeds passion. As Scott Adams, creator of the cartoon Dilbert, explains, it is easy to be passionate about something that is going well. It is difficult to stay passionate about something that is tough and challenging or, worse yet, proving unsuccessful.
Yes, Casey is passionate about great food, the plight of the honeybee, and our community. But he will spend more than 75 percent of his time on things he's not passionate about: planning social media, cold-calling potential retail partners, standing at food markets, and the like.
What are the unsexy activities required to run your business?
5. This will not make you wealthy
Wealth? Probably not. Prepare to bootstrap your entire life. Though I do believe the worst-case scenario for many people isn't that bad, there's always the reality of having to pay your mortgage and feed your kids.
The chances of this being a wealth-generating event in Casey's life are statistically low, to put it nicely. Casey is at an age when he wants to save for a house and retirement. With wealth generation in mind, he could have left his job for a new position with a higher salary and better upward mobility.
What is your true risk profile?
If you read this and you're thinking, Yeah, but I'm sick of the safe option! and Sure, statistically it doesn't make sense, but I can use data, tools, process, and good ol' fashioned elbow grease to figure it out!then you're ready to schedule some time with your boss to discuss your departure.
For Casey, this was a decision not taken lightly. As he explained in an open letter this week, he might be scared and stressed, but he's incredibly happy and excited. And that makes two of us.
Of course, I support and encourage you to take the leap. Even if you're not ready to leap to your own startup, maybe you can leap to a smaller or more entrepreneurial company. Being part of creating something is incredibly rewarding and, at least for Casey and me, worth the stress, risk, and messes we'll deal with along the way.
Comment if you have anything to add or are willing to share your own story.
Haven't tried our Bees Knees Spicy Honey Yet? Go ahead, order a bottle or two. We're so confident you'll love it that we'll give your money back if you're unhappy for any reason.