Working the Second Shift

In recent weeks I’ve had several conversations with folks who’ve hit a season in life where change is looking pretty darn attractive. The voice calling them to blaze their own trail, launch a new company and step out of an unsatisfying office environment is growing louder. Many of the issues in the current corporate culture make it appealing for people to launch a second opportunity. They feel compelled to leave an uninspiring environment to forge their own path. Going out on your own is an exciting proposition filled with promise, high expectations and the thrill of tackling the unknown. It also brings a new level of unpredictability. One question to ask upfront, is this a business or a hobby?

Here are a few thoughts on the realities of this decision:

  • Should I stay or should I go? The dilemma of deciding to move to part time in your day job or save money while you’re full time is complicated. I’ll say upfront, it’s also very personal. Remaining full time means all your business activity is relegated to evenings and weekends, which I’d suggest isn’t viable long term if business growth is the goal. On the flip side, scaling back your day job has a real impact financially, one that requires serious considerations of the ripple effects. I’ll address the part-time option here, since that’s the decision I made one year after we launched Red & Rugged. While going part time means you do have more hours to focus on your business, it also means you have to bring a daily focus to time management, because you’re now splitting that time with another role. Jumping back and forth between emails and phone calls related to two different roles is not ideal, and it decreases your ability to focus consistently on issues at either company. I dedicate full days to one role, to stay on one agenda and one business. I’ve learned to be more diligent about planning the week and what I have to produce each day – appointments, client communication, web content, social content, writing etc. Otherwise, the days slip by and little is produced. You have to be committed to the Sunday evening planning time, even if it’s 20 minutes. Discipline is key.

  • Sustaining the pace. In the first year, you’ll have crazy energy due to the excitement and enthusiasm of the new business. Long hours can even be fun, especially if you love what you do. I’ve seen it many times with co-workers and colleagues. And I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in years past. Year two of a business is different. Assuming you require some level of normal sleep, self-care, from the beginning, is crucial. Translated, if you burn yourself out in year one, with late nights, all work, no play, you’ll burn yourself out for future years too. Looking ahead, you’ll need that energy to sustain, persist, and plow through the long days. Year one is setting the foundation, however, year two and beyond will test you even more as you learn valuable (some say painful) lessons that are inevitable and unpredictable. Brand building, closing sales, product development, finding talent, and of course, financial management, are just a few of the tasks that require a founder’s attention.

  • A business or a hobby? You read it all the time in the business books: it takes twice as long and always costs more than forecasted. So true. That’s why investors love serial entrepreneurs. They’ve learned on someone else’s dime first. It’s also why the stats on successful businesses that make it past year three and five are so dismal. People run out of money, and/or the energy and will to keep going. (Remember, you are supposed to be enjoying the business.) Sales are key, and consistent, predictable sales is the goal. Revenue matters, and cash really is king.

Nothing happens without capital to invest and grow. If the decision is to run a business, you’ve got to attract revenue to gain momentum and offset your personal investments. This moves your company toward being a financially viable business, not an expensive hobby. There’s nothing wrong with a hobby you love, just make sure you know the difference.

It All Began in Paris...

Looking around our office, it’s clear we are in a major state of upheaval as we dismantle furniture and pack up memorable bits and pieces in prep for our office makeover. Ironically, it occurs to me that the same thing is happening in our professional lives.

In addition to the complete makeover of our office, the other big change underway is that I’m transitioning from my full-time day job, into a part-time role, in order to focus more time on Red & Rugged.  This was a year in the making and it’s halfway to our ultimate goal.

We’ve both been thinking a lot about where we are in our careers and the next season of lives, especially since our kids are grown and gone, and we are both (thankfully) healthy. As I share in the About Us page, the call of the entrepreneur has been a steady beat in the background of my noisy life and my husband has been a craftsman since the day I met him. Even so, this change hasn’t happened without thought and careful planning.

The tipping point came last spring, on our first vacation abroad together – ever! We stayed 10 glorious days Paris last May and it was a magical, life-changing event. Time had suddenly become more valuable, as had flexibility and the freedom to do something different. We were both missing the creative element in our lives. We began talking about what we loved to do, where we enjoyed spending time, this business, our future, and what we wanted the next years to look like. Did we want to clock in and out for the next ten years? No can do. Immediately, I started talking about next steps and asking about options at work. (We were already in the midst of change at work, and thankfully leadership supports entrepreneurs in their midst.)

Someone asked me the other week if this was scary? Um, yes! Not gonna lie. However, to quote other successful entrepreneurs, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” A steady diet of the same thing isn’t going to elevate our business, accelerate growth, or spark the energy and creativity we need. And the “same old” isn’t going to attract the life we envisioned while day dreaming in Luxembourg Gardens. That comes from within and requires courage. So here we are.

In another week, when we open the new world headquarters of Red & Rugged (okay, our office), it’s all because my “rugged” half and I embraced the calling we felt on the streets of Paris and took the bold steps to move forward. We encourage you to do the same in your world. Open some new doors, close a few old ones, let’s see where we go!