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Should You Quit Your Job or Start Your Business Part-time?

Written by Tayo Solagbade

Topics: Entrepreneurship

Preamble: The dilemma of choosing between quitting one’s job or starting up part time(while holding on to it) is one that countless entrepreneurs have had to contend with in the past. This difficulty confronts persons who are either approaching retirement or feel they do not want to continue working for someone else. Not many business ideas can be properly "tested" in the market place using "moonlighting" techniques – where an employee tries his/her hands at pursuing a fancied business career on the side, during his/her free time. In this article I share the true story of HOW I took the decision to start my own business. I also provide insight into what others who have passed the same road did – and say. The truth however, is that no two situations are likely to be exactly the same, hence the intending startup must carefully weigh the options available in making up his/her mind. It is my hope that the reader will be able to use the ideas offered here to intelligently arrive at a decision that will facilitate the launch of a successful career in entrepreneuring.

(This article has been reviewed/slightly expanded – today 6th Nov. 2012, and is now relocated to the SD Nuggets blog, from it’s former static html page. The original version published in Apri 2006, and republished on Ezinearticles.com on Apr 03, 2006, is one of twenty-five(25) contained in Tayo Solagbade’s Ebook titled "25 Articles/True Stories On Self-Development, Entrepeneuring & Web Marketing To Help You Succeed More Often")

"No enterprise worthy of accomplishment would ever begin, if all obstacles
were first to be overcome" – Napoleon Hill

Let’s Start With My True Story – About How/Why I Did It

In attempting to help you come to your own decision about the better of the two options mentioned above(quitting your job vs. starting part-time), I will give you an insight into how I entered into the business of entrepreneuring. I start by reproducing the exact words with which I narrated the experience in an ebook I wrote back in 2003 titled “How To Help Your Child Discover His/Her Purpose In Life” (click the preceeding title/link to read an article based on the ebook). 

“I struggled for over 6 years like I said trying to find out why I felt so dissatisfied working as a well paid young manager in a large, blue chip corporate multinational. Despite rapid advancement and numerous opportunities plus the promise of even better career options, I still found I was dissatisfied. So it was that right till the last 2 years of my stay as a Manager in Guinness Nigeria Plc, I continued to baffle family/friends with my frequent trips back and forth between Lagos, Benin, Ibadan, Portharcourt and other places.

I was variously following up advertisements for new jobs, opportunities for new starting up businesses, and possibility of getting admission to study overseas(I just KNEW I wanted to spend my time doing something other than the job I was being so well paid for!). I attended many seminars on wide ranging topics from manufacturing to computer/internet education etc. Then I sought out those who I heard had "made it", and who offered themselves for consultation. I asked their advice on what to do. Slowly but surely, I began to gain insight.

Gradually the picture became clearer. Not long after – in late 1999 to be exact, I had the full picture of what I wanted to do in life clearly mapped out in my mind. But by then I was already 29 years old! Then I spent 2 whole years “preparing”(attending business startup seminars etc) before finally taking off fully! Having gone through all that, I am now thoroughly convinced that I could have done better, if only I had known much earlier that I had the option of deciding whether or not to go into paid employment.” – Excerpt from the ebook titled "How To Help Your Child Discover His/Her Purpose In Life"

Now, the truth is that by the time I decided I wanted to run my own business, I was not sure exactly how I would start.

I knew I wanted to go into some form of speaking-training consultancy/educational work but I was not sure how to begin. Also, I knew that it would be useful to have a creative slant to my business offerings(building on my proficiency in custom spreadsheet programming/solutions development), so as to generate a diversified income stream. It was with these ideas in mind that I began attending all those seminars/courses over the two years before I quit my job.

I however did not just attend them and go back to my job to continue work. Being naturally action oriented, I went ahead and launched mini-versions of some business ideas I had settled for. They were Sealed Nylon Packaged Pepper production and Custom Branded T-Shirts Production (which I came up with by myself after doing some thinking). While on Annual leave, I then used practically all of my leave allowance from work, to run these micro businesses on a test basis.

It was tough, but I gave it all I had. In each case, I made little or no income, but the excitement of doing it all – printing ID cards, drafting sales letters/looking for buyers, designing T-Shirt labels, using an impulse nylon sealer to pack cartons and cartons of pepper (overnight sometimes!) served to give me some degree of satisfaction that it had been worth the trouble.

However, when I returned to work, the challenges of meeting my job as an employee soon made it obvious that I could not combine running either of the businesses with doing my salaried job. This was at a time when I was still a shift brewer, and as such had the advantage of getting off duty rest periods on weekdays, which I tried to use to pursue my micro business efforts.

By the time I was promoted in year 2000 to a normal, routine 9 – 5 job as Technical Training and Development Manager, I lost the little freedom I had left.

For close to one year, I tried to see if I could endure the change and the restrictions it had imposed on me, but soon realised that it would not work. So, I printed off and signed a fresh copy of the resignation letter I had presented to my former boss(who had rejected it back then) in 1999, while I was still a brewer , and handed it to the head(Operations Manager) of my brewery in his office on 31st October 2001(giving 2 months notice).

It’s been over four years now, since I quit my job to start my business – and I remain fully convinced that I took the right decision. This is(among other reasons) because, I have grown tremendously in ways that I could never have achieved had I still been tied to a 9 to 5 job. In addition, I look forward to doing my work on a daily basis, with an excitement much greater than any I ever felt while in paid employment. The feeling of liberation – being able to pursue what you have always dreamt of achieving beats description. The following quote I think describes what I believe I have achieved:

"Free yourselves from the shackles of corporate life" – Anon

Most people in paid employment will not be able to understand what I have said in the above paragraph.

For instance, sometime last year, I visited the office of a former senior colleague(who still works in the HR department of the company I left) to get a reference.

He told me "Many people still think you must have been mad to do what you did". My response was along the lines of "My only regret is that I did not do it sooner!" – and I meant it.

While driving back home that day, I thought about the conversation with my HR manager "friend" and could not help feeling a bit sorry for him, because I knew from the way he said it, that he agreed with those who had questioned my sanity in quitting my job. 

The sad reality however is that whether they accept the inevitable reality or not, they WILL have to go through the same process of "leaving" their jobs one day. When that happens, they will have to – like I did – "re-educate" themselves all over again to be able to survive in the real-world, outside the security of salaried jobs they have gotten used to. This is likely to happen when they retire, or have to resign.

The only difference will be that when they are starting up their own businesses, they will probably be past their prime in terms of age, maybe in their 60s. This may or many not present problems when they have to endure the adversity frequently encountered in the business startup phase.

As for me, I am glad I did it while I still had a lot of my youth on my side.

At 31, I quit a job that paid well, but made me feel unfulfilled, in order to start one that I get excited about everyday regardless of the challenges I face in doing it. If you also want to experience true happiness, you will have to do likewise i.e. follow your heart!

Interestingly, doing what you love WILL ultimately bring the ONE benefit(money!) that many people always seem to want to get first. I don’t care what any realists say. What they consider unprofitable today can become a goldmine tomorrow.

But experts will sometimes not see what you see!

WHAT PEOPLE SAID: There’s no market for it. If
there were, major airlines
would already be offering
it. You won’t be able to
find reliable couriers.”
Conclusion of advisors to
Fred Smith, founder of
Federal Express.

Some experts recommend going with a proven formula or model. I do not quarrel with that. But nothing new will be created or invented if everybody follows that line of thinking! We need people who will perodically follow their instincts and intuition to venture into untested business fields.

Those who will be visionary enough to see the opportunties tthat current experts are blind to. And who will be able to muster and sustain the courage to aim for business success in that area. A passion for the subject will make such individuals persist even when no immediate results are forthcoming.

Historical evidence stongly suggests that most people who do so eventually reap substantial rewards in fame, and fortune.

That’s why Marsha Sinetar said:

"Do what you love, and the money will follow" – Marsha Sinetar

A Question That Can Help You Choose A Business To Start

One of the most important questions that a person who wishes to choose a business to start needs to be able to answer is this:

What is that thing, which you would ENJOY doing for an UNLIMITED period of time, EVEN if you did not get paid to do it?

I found MY answer to that question quite easily, and that made it easy for me to continue happily working towards achieving my set goals in spite of countless rejections and setbacks. You are reading this article, at this point in time, because I chose to follow my heart and pursue my vision. You will need to do the same if you want to achieve sustainable, authentic success.

"If you don’t do what you love, you won’t have what it takes to stick with it. This lack of effort will cause you to fail. And fail big time" – Michael Boss

How Other Entrepreneurs Started Their Own Businesses

1. Quitting To Start – The Risky Way!

a. James R. Cook(Author, Startup Entrepreneur, New York Times Bestseller) did what many considered ill-advised and unthinkable. He simply quit a good job brimming with promises of career advancement. In his book, "The Startup Entrepreneur", he explained that he did so in order to apply Napoleon Hill’s suggestions that the person desiring success "burn all bridges" – admitting that not everyone has to follow the same route as he did.

b. Henry Ford explained that after discussing with his wife, he chose to reject the offer to make him general superintendent of The Edison Company, if he stopped work on his gas engine project to focus on what they considered "more important" work. Left with no other option, he chose to leave his job(on August 15, 1899) rather than give up his automobile business idea. An interesting note added by Ford is the fact that aside from money spent on sustaining themselves daily, he and his wife put every penny they had into experimenting on the automobile, in the hope of making a breakthrough. That willingness to risk financial ruin, would later yield multiple fold returns. Every single person who drives a car today, should be grateful to this couple for refusing to quit!

c. William Lear opined that if a person is really sure about his business idea, he should mortgage every asset he owns to keep going. Using himself as an example, he explained that at one point, during a difficult time in his business, he felt like he owed more or less everyone in the country.

d. Fran Tarkenton also wrote that if you find it difficult starting your business while still in paid employment, seriously consider quitting in order to force yourself to focus better. BUT he also gives what I truly believe is a very VALID warning that in doing this: In quitting, you MUST make sure your family’s security is not jeopardised by the possibility of your business struggles, preventing you from playing your role as a parent or spouse.

2. Moonlighting -The Safe(?) Way

Some people might prefer to test their ideas on the side while they hold on to day jobs as employees. Lucky history shows that a number of people succeeded in starting their businesses this way. George Eastman for instance, who founded the Kodak company, remained in employment while he tested ideas for his film business.

I have also read articles on how Moonlighting techniques(where a person in paid employment launches a semi-entrepreneurial career on the side in his free time from work) can be successfully used by individuals keen to try out their business ideas.

In fact there is a growing trend today of people who start businesses which they engage third parties to run , while they(the owner) remain in paid employment.

So, Which Is Better: To Quit Your Job At Once, Or Start Your Business Part-Time?

In my opinion, the degree of success achievable in meeting client or customer needs by a person who starts up via moonlighting, will depend to a great extent on his/her level of commitment. This is especially because the demands of a routine 9 to 5 job can, for instance, limit a person’s ability(via late hours at work, and/or fatigue) to meet the expectations of a paying client or customer.

Then there is the issue of the type of business a person decides to startup on the side. If a person decides to start up a piggery or catfish business while employed on a full time salary job, s/he might struggle considerably to get a good feel of what it takes to manage the actual production process. A likely reason would be his/her inability to visit the farm as often as would be needed(due to day job work demands) to gain the needed "depth" of understanding. This could have implications for cost-effective and profitable operation of the business, as s/he might end up having to accept anything s/he is told by the hired hands.

Having said that, employing a competent manager to run the operation could reduce the need for worry in this area. I will however add that in the society I operate in as an entrepreneur, you would have to keep both your fingers and toes crossed at the same time, if you choose to go that way. A hint: Finding competent hands over here is one thing. Finding competent AND trustworthy ones can be another issue entirely!

But the truth about it is, no matter how long you test your business idea on the side, you will eventually have to take the plunge and launch out fully. In reality, many people never get to a point when they can muster enough courage to do that, giving various excuses. In the end, their employer helps them take the inevitable decision – and even then, they are seldom prepared!

Those Who Risk All Stand To Gain More

So, on the issue of which option is "better" , it is my considered opinion that most of those who take the "risky" route of quitting the security of their jobs, or "burning their bridges" are likely to emerge as better rounded entrepreneurs, capable of building businesses that outlast them. I say this based on my personal experiences as one who tried both approaches, and also drawing from many interactions I have had with business owners who followed the "safer" route in starting up. The mental attitude of people who belong to this latter group can be surprisingly different from that recognised as typical of persons considered to be "entrepreneurs".

Specific scenarios include: how they see adversity(and the benefits it offers); their disposition towards risk-taking for the purpose of seizing business opportunities in the market place; and their capacity to visualise the future. In each of the three scenarios highlighted, I have repeatedly noticed that the "safe way startup" business owners frequently prefer to keep things as they are, never wanting to take any chances trying anything new – until they have seen many others do so successfully.

Seldom are they ready to be the ones leading the pack in visualising what next to do. And in some cases, there was a striking readiness to compromise their values (sometimes just "a teeny little bit") in the face of opposition, in order to get what they wanted. This suggested the attributes of "integrity" and "persistence" were not strong points for them. I must add here that you could not easily deduce this from what they said, when invited to speak, or discuss on the subject. It was very often from the things they did – actions they took daily, yearly in relation to moving their businesses forward, that you saw real evidence of that they actually "believed".

In contrast, many successful entrepreneurs who followed the "risky", thorn filled path, have described how the long drawn periods of "suffering" they went through, helped them developed the "character" and "survival instincts" necessary for achievement of sustainable long term successes.

Quite a number have been described as "stubborn" or even "obstinate" – attributes which probably enabled them successfully defy adversity and opposition in the past to achieve startling successes. Entrepreneurs often believe they can always get what they want -if they stick with it long enough. Hardly will you find a true entrepreneur willing to cut corners in order to reach a valued goal. Apart from having a strong sense of integrity, the exciting prospect of defying all odds and opposition to reach the prize, would be simply too attractive for him/her to pass up.

Don’t get me wrong here! I am not implying that a person who did not quit a job or do something "risky" to start his/her business is not an entrepreneur. What I am saying is that a serious possibility exists, that those who start by holding on to the "security" of a life-line in form of a "job", or other comforts, may end up not undergoing the full myriad of "educative" experiences needed to mature fully as entrepreneurs.

You can read my article titled Avoid Taking Lessons On Entrepreneuring From The Wrong Person(s) to learn more about why I believe NOT every business owner can be called an entrepreneur.

"You cannot acquire experience by making experiments. You cannot create experience. You must undergo it." – 
Albert Camus

"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things." – Eleanor Smith

Summary – The Choice Is Ultimately Yours To Make!

From reading my story, you will find that I did make effort to try juggling my new interests with the responsibilities I had as an employee, but with little success. In order to avoid destroying my credibility in my workplace by having divided loyalty(and also to ensure that I was more efficient in the use of my time and efforts), I chose to take an honourable exit from a company I had served for seven(7) years, while the ovation was still at its loudest.

That was one of the reasons why the overall head of the brewery where I worked, was able to say/write wonderful things about me (at the send forth ceremony organised for me, even though I had only reported indirectly to him for about 11 months) including the following:

Tayo, I honestly believe you are one of those who will succeed at anything he does. Your commitment and effort has been outstanding….Thanks for all your hard work since I’ve been here – you will be sorely missed. I don’t need to wish you good luck, you have the ability to make your own luck. – Andy"(R. Jones)*

*Operations Manager, Guinness Nigeria Plc Benin Brewery, December 2001(Handwritten comments in farewell/xmas cards sent to Tayo Solagbade following his resignation to start his own business).

My study of the writings and lives of many entrepreneurs in some cases support this option(i.e. quitting your job), while others lean towards the other. It is up to you, to consider the examples provided through this article’s narration of what others have done(coupled with its analyses), and then come up with your own decision. Back to top

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."  – Mark Twain

[IMPORTANT: This blog's contents are being updated following the transfer to www.tayosolagbade.com from my former domain - Spontaneousdevelopment.com. As a result, some parts of it may not work properly for now. Quick Tip: If a link contains "spontaneousdevelopment.com", simply change it to "tayosolagbade.com" - and it should work. This applies to article links as well as image links. Work continues to update the links(in over 500 articles). Tayo K. Solagbade.]

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