Interviews

How to plan your startup around life’s other commitments  

6 min read

20 April 2018

Why do many potential business owners end up not following their dream? In his latest entry for Founder’s Diaries, Rob Drury seeks to answer this vital question.

Many people have the dream of owning their own business. They want to be their own boss. They want to follow their passion, or just follow through on an idea they’ve had that can make a difference. They want flexibility, responsibility, or a sense of achievement.

But, although over 634,000 new businesses were formed in the UK in 2017, many potential business owners don’t actually follow their dream. Why is that?

There may be many reasons for not going for it, from not finding the right opportunity, to not having the right amount of money to get it off the ground, but one of the main reasons is risk.

It’s a risk to give up the security of a steady paying job, which covers the mortgage, the household bills, and maybe an annual holiday for you and the kids.

“If I don’t get enough customers, how will I pay my mortgage? Will I lose the house? If I borrow some money, and I can’t get that first deal, how will I pay it back?”

These are valid concerns, but there might be ways to reduce the risk, by dipping your toe in the water whilst still keeping the day job going. When you plan your startup and eventually set up a business there is a lot of learning to do.

What am I going to sell?  How am I going to sell it? How am I going to fulfil it? Who’s going to buy it? Do they buy it from someone else already? How will I be different to the things they’re already buying?

How much is it going to cost me? Where can I get the money from? How much do I need to make to pay it back again and to pay myself? The list of questions can be endless.

The thing is that you don’t need to quit your job and then start getting the answers to these questions to plan your startup, as you can be doing all of this whilst you’re getting your pay packet and putting in your 40 hours a week in your current role. “I don’t have the time to do that” is probably what you’re saying, but I’m sorry, you probably do.

I know because I’m doing it at the moment. I have a full-time job, to which I spend 15 hours a week commuting to and from. I have a wife and five children, write articles like this one, am a mentor for a charity supporting kids figure out what they should study and what career they want, and I’m renovating the lower ground floor of my house.

But, I’m still looking at a potential business opportunity. The thing is to be organised and work out what you need to do to plan your startup. I’m setting myself some small targets each day in order to make incremental steps towards the bigger end goal.

It might be that I need to find out whether anyone else is doing what I want to do, then today I might have a goal of spending 15 minutes researching competitors just to get the names written down.

Tomorrow, I might then have a target of write out the pros and cons of two of them, the following day two more, and the next analyse what I’ve found to spot any gaps. By the end of the week I’ve done my competitor analysis.

We can all find 15 minutes in our day. When we’re on the train, when we were going to check Facebook, whilst we’re eating breakfast. 15 minutes isn’t much time to find to plan your startup.

Keep doing this with the any other questions I have, and before too long I know I’ll have the answers that go with them.

Then, as time progresses you start to test out the idea in the real world, still in your spare time. Get it set up on the weekend to sell it via eBay or Etsy. Run a meet up in the evening to get people to you and ask them questions.

It’s the latter that I’ve been involved with, getting some people to come along for free in order to test out what it is that me and my business partner want to be involved in. Real feedback from real people is essential to plan your startup, and it’s not impacted our day jobs.

The important thing to remember is once you’ve thought of the big goal, break it down into small chunks that you can do each and every day, and every chunk you manage to get through brings you closer to your goal.