Personal experience. I ran at least 3 businesses on the side while working for the man. I rented an office, hired employees, and worked with them remotely while doing a good job for my employers.
Let me first debunk an insidious lie that has killed many careers:
“Your salary is the bribe they give you to forget your dreams.”
It is just NOT true.
“Your salary is what you earn while giving value to your employers and learning to run a business at their expense”
We can’t all start business straight out of university. Many of us have to work for food, clothing, and shelter after graduating. Others need to support struggling family members. Whatever your reason, please don’t see paid employment as a betrayal of your goals.
The five steps that helped me build my own businesses on the side while delivering value to my employers
Step 1.DON’T STEP TOO FAR FROM YOUR CORE COMPETENCE.
If you work in banking, you probably understand finance better than most people. If you work for a FMCG, retail may be your forte. If you work in tech… Find something that is in your natural sphere of influence.
My father was the CFO for a major corporation in the 80’s when he had the genius idea of building an agro-chemical business on the side. Bad idea. Accounting and agro-chemicals are so far apart that the business never succeeded.
Stay in your lane, bro.
My first side business was a tech development firm. We built business strategy implementations tools. I was a business leader implementing a new strategy for my paid employment. The tech we built was based on my experience delivering value to my day job’s board of directors.
Step 2: ALWAYS START SMALL.
There are no guarantees in business. Your business can fail despite the best laid plan and even topnotch implementation. Start small, then scale slowly until you can do it full-time.
I have a friend who started a restaurant in Lagos with about $250,000. He had the money and thought it would be a good idea to blow out the competition on day 1. Bad idea, he lost everything.
Step 3:WORK WITH A PARTNER.
It is important for one of the business owners to work full-time in the business. If that’s not feasible, give a small equity holding to your most senior employee. That way someone in the business has ownership stake that binds him/her to the firm.
Step 4: RECOGNIZE THE PLACE OF INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT IN YOUR DAY JOB
You are a star employee. That’s great. Corporations however have strategies to help you succeed. Please make sure you can deal with the uncertainties of entrepreneurship before making the jump
Step 5: DON’T LEAVE YOUR DAY JOB UNTIL YOUR HUSTLE CAN PAY THE BILLS.
You’ve gradually built a business while working for the man. Is it time to resign and face your hustle full time? Maybe. But please be sure that your hustle can pay the bills before making the jump.
NB: Your time is yours after 5pm. Trust me, even your MD has a side hustle. Give your employer your best till 5pm and then face your hustle afterwards. Keep it quiet, though. Nobody needs to know you're not going home to watch TV after work.