Minimize Your Downside: What to Do if You’re Scared to Quit Your Job and Go “All-In” On Your Startup

Some people dread waking up on Monday morning: after a wonderful weekend of friends, family and hobbies it’s all over. They go to a job they hate, for another five days of pain. In a desperate hope to live again, these people are often attracted to things like bitcoin, “passive income”, and even entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is absolutely a pathway to quitting your 9 to 5. It is not, however, an income stream that is will immediately pay all of your expenses. Most businesses take years to be profitable, and yet many professionals feel this urge to get rid of a stable revenue stream as soon as possible. This is risky, but you may feel that not quitting your job is even riskier: it means you don’t believe in your startup idea; or maybe your boss sucks, or your job is getting in the way of your business opportunities, or maybe you simply have something to prove to all of those friends and relatives who told you that you were “wasting your time on that startup hype”.

Whatever the reason, the pressure is on to pack your desk and submit your letter of resignation today. Problem is, you’re scared. You’re scared and you know that your business may not be profitable quickly enough to pay your student loans, your wife’s prescription, your son’s music classes. So what do you do? Serial Entrepreneur and Arctic15 speaker Kamran Elahian has a suggestion for you, based on lived experience.  

Keep Your Job.

Yes, that’s right. If you want to start a company, keep your current 9 to 5, or get a job if you don’t have one yet. Here is why:

1.You will learn how to (or how NOT to) run a business

Most of us have had that dreaded boss who we and every other employee could not stand to be around. We have talked about that manager behind their backs, made jokes about them, and steadily built up resentment until we finally quit the place, praying to never see him or her again. This behaviour is a waste of time, though.

If you are still working with a bad manager, instead of making fun, assess their practices for what is and isn’t working. You will likely find behaviours and values that will destroy any working relationship. If you’re blessed enough to have a wonderful manager who everyone loves and respects, do the exact same thing: study their work. How are they interacting with the team? How do they motivate your coworkers to get things done? How do they handle stressful situations? In the answer to these questions, you are likely to find gems you can bring into your own business practices.

2. You can maintain and increase your knowledge of your industry

Many of us have college degrees or skills relevant to the company we want to build. Working at another company enables you to maintain and increase your skills and knowledge through real executions.

You can, of course, do this with your startup as well, but the reality of building a business from scratch is that early on you will likely have to wear every hat yourself: you will have to be the marketer, the CEO, the HR person if you have an employee or two, the accountant i.e. you will likely not be able to spend as much time as you want developing your primary skillset. A job will not only allow you to continue developing your abilities, but it will also PAY YOU to do so.

3. You establish a base credential

What if your startup doesn’t work? In 2011, Startup Genome – an organization who analyzes and diagnoses startups and their success – reported that over 90% of startups fail. Yes, you and your company may be in the 10% that succeed but how long is that going to take? And what resources will you need to accumulate to make your business successful? No founder can ever tell you the answer to that before actually building their business.

The other fact is that your idea simply may not be of any value to the market, which is totally fine: you are welcome to try a different idea. While you figure it out though, you and your family still need to eat. That job experience, your “base credential” as Mr. Elahian calls it, will enable you to put food on the table even if your startup flops.

There is this strange myth floating around the entrepreneurial community that being a college dropout or quitting your job is the way to succeed in business. “Steve Jobs did it! Mark Zuckerburg did it!” and so on. These examples are absolutely true, however, they are just a handful of entrepreneurs who succeeded on this path. Take a look at some other founders on Linkedin though; pick a few companies at random and search the profiles of their founders; look into their backgrounds. I promise you, many of them had a job before their startup took off, many of them finished college. There is no shame in keeping a stable income source while you follow your dreams, nor is there any shame in a failed startup. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.