Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin
As the saying goes, “No man can serve two masters at the same time.” If you are currently employed, starting a business is a difficult thing to do. Starting a business while currently employed poses many legal, ethical, and technical issues. The truth is, it is almost impossible not to be distracted but still, you should not steal time from your present job, just to work on your business.
There is little financial risk if you start a business while still employed. You still have the cash flow of your job to sustain your basic needs if you are unsuccessful in your venture. But aside from the time you spend in your regular job, you have to devote time to your business, meaning, you have to work during your rest periods, sacrificing your holidays and vacations.
Dealing with the legal aspect first is of prime importance. You could be fired or even be sued if you neglect to check this. Some contracts state that you cannot start a competing business while you are still employed with your company. Others disallow you from doing other jobs—and they can threaten to charge you for conflict of interest.
On the personal side here are some tips:
• If possible, be honest with your boss. It will free you from your stress and other worries. Just make a commitment that your business will not negatively affect your present job. You may also market to your current clients and co-workers as long as there is no conflict of interest.
• Have a business start-up plan. Include objectives, product or service testing, funding and resources, market analysis, sales strategies, and break-even point analysis.
• Never take your personal business calls on company time.
• Never use company supplies or equipment for your own business.
• Teach your family members to be frugal. You need money to finance your business. Find means to cut expenses.
• Do not falter in your current job, or you will be terminated in no time. Follow your regular work schedule. Your business must be done only after your work hours.
• Never quit your job until you have proven that your business can sustain itself. This is most tempting in seasonal businesses. I have an acquaintance who started her business during the Christmas season and she resigned when sales boomed. Unfortunately, by January, she was barely breaking even and by March she had to close shop.
• Never forget to mind your health. It is your number one asset.
If you wish to launch a business while still employed, you must do it part-time. Usually such businesses should be easily monitored and should not need your continuous supervision to function. Choose a business that capitalizes on your current skills and talents. Here are some business suggestions you may start effortlessly:
• If you are a teacher, you may offer tutorial services. Soon you can build your own preschool or tutorial center.
• If you are a good writer, you may start blogging as a home business. You may also apply as a freelance writer, public relations officer, or a copywriter. You may also earn big bucks by providing a résumé writing service. Later on, you could possibly go into the publishing business.
• If you have plenty of stuff, you may sell the unused items. Look in your closet for old clothes, or check your bookshelves for items you no longer need. You can earn extra, while removing the clutter in your house. Soon you can have your own “ukay-ukay” store.
• If you have hobbies and can produce nice crafts, you may begin selling them to friends. You may also sell them online through e-bay, sulit.com.ph, or similar websites. Soon you might be supplying to various mall chains.
• If you have talent in photography, you may offer services during weddings and other parties. Eventually you can have your own photography studio.
• If you have talent in cooking, you may accept catering services during weekends and holidays. As a caterer, you may include supplying balloons and other party needs on the side. If successful, you can start your own restaurant or fast food business.
• If you are an excellent singer or dancer, you may be a dance or music instructor. Soon you can build your own music or dance studio.
• If you have a computer and printer at home, coupled with your expertise in layouts and designs, you may be a desktop publisher. Maybe, later, you can have your own printing press.
There are certain not obvious advantages of doing business while still employed. It forces you to learn delegation. You get to know how to institute controls, policies and procedures so that the employees can function effectively on their own. If you are there all the time, the instinct to decide or do everything yourself may be too great.
It is really a challenge to balance both your job and your business. However, you have to persevere if you want to supplement your income, and protect your family during the financial crisis. You must have a safety cushion before you can quit your job and commit to your own business if being an entrepreneur is your long-term plan.
Lastly, try to be in good terms with your current employer. You never know; they may eventually become your client or give you referrals. Often, the best opportunities for you are in the industry you already know and usually people know each other if they are in the same line of business and so it will be best if you don’t burn your bridges.
Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. It is not for the lazy or the fearful. There are no safety nets to catch you if you fail. While even big companies fail, the mortality for start-ups is far higher. You will reduce your risks substantially if you can start your business while still receiving a paycheck.
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