5 Ways to Safely Sample the Entrepreneur Lifestyle
If you think you are the perfect fit for the entrepreneur lifestyle, but youre not yet sure if youre ready to start your own, then I recommend that you take a job with an existing startup first to validate the culture realities against your dream. Without risking your life savings, you may find that corporate desk you have as an alternative is a lot more satisfying.
Running or working for a startup is more of a lifestyle than a career choice. Be prepared for chaos, long hours and small paychecks in the short term. Founders stock and stock options will be worth nothing for the first several years, if not forever. The fun is the long-term potential of changing the world, and maybe even hitting it big financially.
So here is a rational hedge strategy I recommend, and see playing out every day in Silicon Valley and other startup hubs. If you have a spouse and kids, one of you needs to keep a solid job at a dependable large company like Intel®, Apple® or HP. That one will provide the stable base income, medical and dental benefits for all, and the schedule flexibility to administer your kids activities.
The partner most obsessed with the startup lifestyle tests the water by going to work in an early-stage startup, similar to one they might hope to start someday. Here are some thoughts on how you can find that perfect test environment, and some recommendations along the way:
Once you find a startup that seems like a good fit, its still important to do some of your own due diligence. Every startup has a unique culture, driven by the founders, so talk to as many people in the organization as you can. Unfortunately, some startup teams are almost as dysfunctional as some families, and you need to avoid these.
As much as possible, make sure you understand the risk and the challenges ahead. Build yourself a list of specific questions, like the following, and get the answers, both informally and formally as you interview and make the rounds:
Now its time to make a decision about working for a startup. Believe me, this one is a lot easier and less risky than the decision to start your own. But if you believe that you can drive the next big thing, and you are not afraid of chaos and constant pivots, a startup is the place to work. Its the best way to test your appetite for the lifestyle, and the best way to prepare for starting your own venture.
Martin Zwilling is the founder and chief executive officer of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners. Check out his daily blog at http://blog.startupprofessionals.com or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.