Leadership Strategy

How To Run A Startup Part-Time Without Working Over Time


Since the beginning, every startup founder knows there will be challenges. Building a startup is complex work. There will be weeks when you’ll feel that over a hundred hours of work is not enough, but when you look back, you realize you haven’t accomplished much. It sure is exhausting and stressful to build a startup. Those who persist, reap the rewards.

Building a startup part-time or on your free time is like building two houses at the same time. Without a team, by the time you complete your tasks for the first house in the first half of the day, you’ll most likely be physically and mentally exhausted for the second project later in the day. Eventually, most part-time entrepreneurs either quit too soon or accomplish a tiny portion of what they could have done had they focused exclusively on their venture.

This is not to be compared with side hustles or passive income streams. In a startup, speed is key. Not necessarily for competitive reasons, but more importantly, in the early stages, entrepreneurs can end up spending years to learn what could have been discovered in a few months of work. The opportunity cost of moving slowly can amount to a lot of wasted resources over time.

Does this mean that entrepreneurs should quit their job or sell their businesses before launching a startup? Definitely, not. In fact, research shows that entrepreneurs who start on the side, on average, fail 33% less often. Risk minimization and bootstrapping are two of the most significant benefits of keeping a stream of income while building a startup.

Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter and Square), Daymond John (founder of FUBU), Marc Benioff (founder of Salesforce), and many other multi-billion and even as significant as seven-figure entrepreneurs started their ventures part-time. The question is, with a part-time availability, how do you make sure your startup is running as if you are committed to it full-time?

The answer is clear; you need someone to fill the gap while you’re away. You need a team. There is no secret in the importance of a passionate and committed team with complementary skills, but who exactly should you hire? Before answering this question, here are the four areas that every entrepreneur should take responsibility for, especially in the beginnings, to build a strong business foundation.

Hiring. The first hires can make or break a startup. Many entrepreneurs succeed at identifying and validating a compelling value proposition but fail at execution due to poor team performance. One of your first and biggest responsibilities is to sell your vision to the best candidates. Talents that can turn any idea into great ventures.

Delegation. Hiring the right people is half of the work. Collaborative team members will simplify your delegation job because even in your absence, they’ll figure out the best structure and person for the task. Nonetheless, your job is to make sure the team has clear responsibilities, goals, and deadlines.

Evaluation and motivation. A startup is unlike any other business. For example, bug-free apps don’t necessarily guarantee success. Some products work OK and yet have thousands of paying customers. While team members should be evaluated for work quality, what’s equally important in the early stages is critical thinking, the ability to analyze data and user behavior to make educated conclusions and plans.

Talking to customers is sales, clarity, opportunity, branding, and retention. Most of your business challenges can be solved with a few conversations with customers or potential buyers. While every team member should build the habit of meeting with users, as a founder, especially in the beginning, customer interaction should be one of your primary responsibilities.

As the CEO of two public companies, Jack Dorsey recommends creating daily themes. For instance, Mondays could be recruiting days. Tuesdays can be reserved for customer meetings. Wednesdays could be focused on project management and support. Dorsey assigns his team weekly goals so that by the time they meet again, they discuss progress and results. With this productivity approach, no matter how little time you have, you’d be able to move things forward as if you were available full-time.

Commonly, entrepreneurs do anything and everything in the early days of a startup, but it doesn’t take long until help is needed, especially for part-time founders. Research conducted by First Round Capital shows that startup teams outperform solo founders by 163%. Here are the most important roles you would want to fill as soon as possible if you are building a technology startup.

1. A Builder

Perfectly functional products don’t guarantee startup success. Perfectly functional products that solve painful problems and address urgent needs is what makes a startup successful. The best coders in a startup are also entrepreneurs. They know what it means to build and rebuild until the product sticks. Those are the talents you want on your team. They tend to be customer-driven, proactive, analytical, and competitive.

2. A Designer

Well designed products can significantly boost startup performance. In fact, users are more likely to continue with a product if they have a unique experience using it. Product designs are a form of marketing in terms of customer retention and acquisition.

The role of a designer in an early-stage startup goes beyond creating product interface and user experience. In fact, even before building the first version of the product, one of the best strategies to make cheap validation mistakes is to start with product designs that can provide potential customers with a visual presentation of how the product will look and function. This goes to show how designers can be of great value to your startup since the beginning.

3. A Marketer

It’s never too early to start marketing even if you have no clue what to build yet. Building an audience and nurturing relationships with key stakeholders are two marketing initiatives that will facilitate path to market and sales. A passionate marketer can create startup value since day one. 

4. An Operator

Your role as a CEO is to figure out the company’s vision and strategic priorities. The operator executes on your roadmap while making sure everyone on the team is moving in the same direction. If you are a part-time founder, the operator can fill a big gap to make sure the startup is always on the move.

In conclusion, customers don’t care if the founders are running their ventures on the side or full-time as long as the product solves a problem and the team is committed to making the business a little better every day. It all comes down to the team.



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