Question: What is your top tip for someone transitioning from employee to entrepreneur?
"Test your market before you make the leap away from the safety net of a salaried position. You should never make the leap to full-time entrepreneur without first knowing that you have a market to sell to. In the beginning, your best bet will be to make the most of your spare time outside of your job so that you find your first customers before jumping in full force. "
Meet With an Employment Attorney
"Particularly if you are starting a business that will be competing with your former employer, take the time to meet with an employment attorney to get tips on how to prevent your former employer from successfully suing you for stealing trade secrets and a number of other claims. When it comes to dealing with former employers, an ounce of prevention is often worth a pound of legal cure."
Leverage the Resources From Your Current Role
"Being an entrepreneur is exciting, but on day one, you will realize that you no longer have an infrastructure to rely on. Take advantage of your current setting. While you need to do well at your job, take advantage of your colleagues' insights and the other resources that come from being employed for as long as possible. Show steady progress before you take the plunge!"
Set Goals and Audit Your Activities
"The main difference between an employee and an entrepreneur is that you are now in charge of everything: what you do, when you do it and how you do it. The top tip is to set goals and audit your weekly activities to make sure you're on track to achieve those goals. I set up a "goal post" that's visible and reminds me to get back on track when I find myself doing something outside the routine."
Identify Your Runway and Break-Even Point
"All startups generate value in different ways. After you are able to understand how your revenue model will pay all your bills, it's important to lay out your financial runway for year one and beyond. When doing so, estimate your break-even point and proceed with the utmost frugality. "
Make the Move as Soon as You Can
"As soon as you can afford to be an entrepreneur, do it! You’ll be more satisfied answering your true calling, and you'll have more energy and focus for the startup. Until then, save as much as you can. Each payday is an opportunity to start your own company that much sooner."
Take Your Roledex and Run!
"I cannot stress the importance of taking your contacts with you when you leave the corporate rat race behind. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, "Well I used to know someone there, but I don't have their email anymore," I would be able to buy several cashmere sweaters. And I mean NICE ones! Those contacts are your lifelines -- don't cast them aside when you're abandoning ship."
Start Building Your Personal Brand Now
"Before starting a business, it's important to begin positioning your personal brand for success. When you leave your job and go out on your own as an entrepreneur, you leave everything but your personal brand behind. Take the time to establish your personal brand so you can leverage it as an entrepreneur. You can start by establishing your own personal branding website."
Get a Partner
"Without a wife to support me while I was getting my idea off the ground, it would have never happened. Without a business partner to serve as the left brain to my right, there would never have been a system of checks and balances in place to realize our dream. Not to mention all the work -- it is simply impossible to be great at payroll and marketing, and do both full-throttle at the same time."
Create a Routine
"When you go from a traditional 9 to 5 routine to having to create your own schedule, it can be totally overwhelming. Create a schedule and plan for things like exercise and socialization. If you don't, you'll spend way too much time working and, often, not being nearly as effective as you could be. Hard work is good. Smart work is better."
Ask for Help
"You're not the smartest person in the room or in your industry (yet). There are so many people out there you can reach out to for help, advice or to make an intro. If you don't know what to do or need help, don't feel like you failed just because you have to ask for it."
Don't Wait for the Perfect Time
"You're about to do a lot of waiting if you're waiting for the perfect time -- because it doesn't exist. You will not have all of the pieces in place (hint: you never will), nor will you reduce enough risk to feel totally secure before you jump (hint: you never should). If you have faith in yourself, that's enough to start. You'll figure the rest out along the way. And that's the fun part."
Don't Quit Your Day Job (Yet)
"LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, likes to say, "Entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff and and assembling a plane on the way down." That paints entrepreneurship as a risky, life-or-death proposition. I disagree. With all the cheap or free tools and advice available to anyone, it's easier than ever to start working on your idea on the side -- building a business while keeping your day job. "
Give Yourself Time for Deinstitutionalization
"Many entrepreneurs are unprepared for the predictable crash that happens after the honeymoon period of quitting their jobs and "working for themselves." About three months into it, they realize they've never learned how to be proactive and self-motivating. For their entire lives, someone else has held the carrot. It takes a while to go through this deinstitutionalization period."