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How to build your business before quitting your day job

How to build your business before quitting your day job
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Like diving from a cliff the first time, leaving your job to dedicate yourself to your own business can be quite daunting prospect. There should be much more consideration to making a decision to quit your job than simply “look before you leap.” There are ways to approach this without burning bridges, while building wealth and increasing the likelihood of success in the new venture.

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Determine a good crossover point, so that you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Why not maintain those relationships developed during your career while gaining some early traction? Much of what works and doesn’t work in a venture can be figured out before making a full commitment to it. You can work toward a bottom line measurement, where profit trajectory from the business crosses your income needs, before you make the leap. This is not always easy to do but will be worth the effort.

If done well, quitting your job to dedicate yourself to your business will be a natural transition, even if this is your first time. Here is a list of ten things to work on to determine a good crossover point. In other words, don’t quit until:

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  1. There is a good product or service offering in place. An idea, set of samples, prototype and the like do not count. There needs to be a real business opportunity in here. Wherever possible, it should be proven, backed by a good plan and operating on a sound business model. It takes solid front-end marketing to determine that. There is rarely any value in quitting a well paying job on just a hunch there is a good business opportunity. Whatever it is, it needs to be priced for sale and priced for profit with all the costs of overhead, production, sales and distribution factored in.
  2. There are real customers. Unless you are selling quilts, family and friends are not considered customers. Whether your customers are end users, distributors, retailers, businesses or the general public doesn’t matter as much as whether or not they are real and sustainable.
  3. There is enough money in the bank to sustain a prolonged dry spell. It can take three years to develop a business to the point there is enough profit above and beyond the needs of the business to generate a healthy income for the owner.
  4. The business becomes more enjoyable and satisfying then the job. This is easier for people who hate their job than it is for those who are very passionate about their work. There needs to be passion and enthusiasm for the new venture, otherwise it is bound to fail. This is always true if you are the one leading it and doing the sales. With few exceptions, this also holds true if you are simply taking over an existing business with a track record and organization in place. The attitude of the owner affects the whole enterprise.
  5. The product or service offering is not being trampled by a major competitor. If a big competitor can afford to and does make a big effort to undercut your offering and has the ability to out-market, out-produce and out-sell you, the business could quickly become a race for the bottom.
  6. The business will not likely go broke within three to five years. The sad reality is that about half of all companies are simply not around five years after they are started. About a third of the ones that close do so because they lose money, another third break even and the remainder are profitable. There are many reasons for a company to close its doors, but not making a profit is obviously the main one.
  7. You develop the self discipline it takes to tough it out in your own business. Not having a boss or system in place to keep you working makes it easier to become distracted and lose focus on the needs of the business. Putting off necessary sales calls to head off to the beach on a nice summer day is a surefire way to undermine the chances of success.
  8. You have become an expert in your chosen area. Leaving a 20 year career in the insurance industry to start a venture manufacturing a new health food snack bar is likely going to become problematic. People in both the insurance and food industries will be skeptical unless clear expertise has been developed in the relevant areas. This is why it is often easier to transition from a job to a business in a similar area or expertise. An insurance veteran offering a new product or service in the insurance field will have less trouble establishing credibility as an expert.
  9. You have enough of the right “friends” in the area. A productive network is a great asset in building a business. If you have the right people in the right places available at the right time, your business is much more likely to succeed than if you don’t. Use tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and industry networking events to enhance your network.
  10. You have key mentors and advisors in place. These people can help you develop the business long before full deployment. Call on more of your growing network of “friends” as things develop. These advisors can also help with determining when to quit your job (or the business).

It boils down to really knowing yourself and knowing your stuff before going into your new venture with a full commitment. You should know the area well enough to be able to write a book about it. This helps eliminate the tendency to respond to the frequent “once in a lifetime” opportunities that come along.

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Develop the business under trial conditions as much as possible while you are still maintaining your job or career. You won’t likely be able to generate much volume or profit during this phase. It is often hard to go out and make sales calls during the day while you are working 9 to 5 job. However, it is quite possible to do substantial test marketing and research without having to quit your job. There can usually be enough product or service development work done where needed to get it into a saleable enough form to get orders from real customers – enough to prove out the business and maybe make a small profit. Plus build your network, expertise and credibility in the area.

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Develop your business to the point that you simply are forced to choose between your job and the business. Do that, and you’ll be much less likely to hit rock bottom when you make the leap!

If you have any additional suggestions, please post a comment.

Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa are co-founders of Atomica Creative Group , a specialized strategic product marketing firm. Through leading edge insight and research, sound strategic planning and effective project management, Atomica helps companies achieve greater success in bringing new products to market and in improving their existing businesses. They have co-authored Overcoming Inventoritis now available.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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