Entrepreneurship isn’t a 9-to-5 job that comes with the comfort of family and friends time in the evenings, or traveling and watching TV over the weekends.
It’s an effort that usually requires a massive commitment and a multidisciplinary approach for handling dozens of activities at the same time, from branding through technology to accounting.
It requires an odd sense of curiosity and the inner urge for solving problems. It’s a competitive sport that isn’t comparable to being an employee of the month at the office.
The Harsh Entrepreneurial Truth
Over 80% of businesses fail in most industries. And most people have a very hard time dealing with failure. They also invest in mortgages, leasing cars, or other personal ventures that require ongoing capital on a monthly basis.
Those who are truly passionate about an idea and are willing to spend years validating it day and night, and making it happen, can jump into the startup ecosystem. But that’s a small chunk of the population that is genuinely willing to risk it all and spend their precious hours on hard work and burning the midnight oil.
A Regular Work Week for Most Entrepreneurs
60 hours a week is pretty generous for a large percentage of the entrepreneurs who clock 80–100 hours a week for months in a row.
Is it healthy? Not really.
Does it affect family life, hobbies, or social life? It sure does.
In fact, 60 hours a week is fairly manageable even for employees with different hobbies.
There are some rare occasions where this is not the case and an entrepreneur can “take it easy” by working 40–50 hours a week. That’s usually the case with lifestyle businesses that merely cover the basic needs, established professionals with large networks that could do high-rate consulting which pays the bills, or co-founders that participate mainly financially without putting too much effort.
Those are definitely not the norm and success may vary accordingly.
Starting a business usually revolves around two scenarios:
- Starting as a competitor in a familiar space that aims to steal some market share.
- Or, starting a new category and educating the audience on the viability of the product (creating need).
In both cases, you either have to work extremely hard to become better than everyone else or spend most of your time creating the need out of something that your prospects have never heard of.
Those sure take more than a 40-hour workweek unless you happen to have $100K or more in savings and ready to live a frugal life for a few years until you can validate your concept. As long as it’s not too late.
Also, even for a new category, competitors are monitoring the market landscape, looking for new business opportunities. Large corporations have the opportunity to invest a lot of time (staff) and money into developing a new concept if it makes sense. Smaller companies can work harder and faster as they have to deal with less bureaucracy – and build your idea faster, market it better, and sell it more zealously.
With that in mind, when there are thousands of people eager to spend 80 hours or more with a comparable skill set or competitive advantages, spending half the time drastically reduces your chances.
Most entrepreneurs live with a scarcity mindset which lets them progress faster, iterate, and spend time on different business activities that could make a sale or improve the end product.
Allocating a “regular workweek” is doable if you’ve already established a successful solution and are comfortable with taking a break. That is arguably entrepreneurship anymore.
Here’s a quote from Elon Musk giving advice for entrepreneurs:
“Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40-hour workweeks and you’re putting in 100-hour workweeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve. Elon”
Can You Pursue Entrepreneurship While Working a Day Job?
Having time is often not a blocker for most full-time employees who want to explore growth opportunities as entrepreneurs. Other conflicting reasons might be:
- Various side activities that eat up time. Sport, family, friends, your significant other…
- Long commute hours. Traveling for 2–3 hours daily is both time consuming AND exhausting.
- A stressful work environment. You may be stressed after completing a full workday.
- Lots of R&D at work. If you’re learning constantly at work, that’s a legit career progression, too.
- Product ownership at work. If you’re leading a project (or a product), you’re likely to invest longer hours and energy into the ongoing development.
- Lack of skills. Juniors have to work much harder than their more experienced counterparts. Tons of challenges and bottlenecks at work that have to be resolved.
For the most part, people are just not eager enough to work on exploring entrepreneurial opportunities after hours. They are either not passionate about that, prefer to engage in other activities, don’t have a good idea (or a team), or are still weighing their choices.
But if you are a full-time employee who works in a fast-paced, rapidly growing startup or company that provides enough support and encouragement to those who want to grow in the company and with the company, the results can be extremely rewarding.
Entrepreneurial Mindset in Various Forms
Entrepreneurship is a way of life that should not be constricted to launching a business. You can channel your entrepreneurial mindset in various forms, such as:
- creating something (a product or idea) that simply doesn’t exist.
- solving a business problem in a different way
- building a new brand in a less chartered niche
- learning how to grow a company, hire staff, close deals, find a product-market fit, handle finances, and manage people, among others
Starting any business with zero business experience (or participation) is outright risky.
Then again, entrepreneurship can vary dramatically, and so do companies out there. But there are common patterns you can observe (and learn from) at the workplace:
- Different hierarchies, career paths, progressions
- The role of sales and marketing in an organization
- How crucial it is to sort out accounting and legal matters
- Interpersonal communication, combined with office drama for seemingly minor details around the thermostat or how light/dark a room is
- Time tracking, reporting, accountability
- Teamwork, coordination between the staff and managers
- Vendors, partners, clients, new employees, onboarding processes, switching between departments
Working in a couple of different companies, one small and one larger, will reveal common problems that similar-sized companies deal with. And, of course, no two companies are alike.
Starting on your own, first thing after graduation, will likely be more challenging for you. Some folks are capable of figuring everything by themselves, but statistically speaking, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
The Rise of Intrapreneurship
Intrapreneurship is on the rise — and I couldn’t be happier about it!
Intrapreneurs are the best asset of a progressive startup or a fast-growing organization.
If you haven’t heard the term before, imagine an entrepreneur starting a job – being happy at one, contributing to the bottom line with authority, decision-making principles, and leadership skills. And, the financial backup/resource planning handled by the upper management.
I built The Business Guide to Intrapreneurship so you can study the art of employing intrapreneurship from both sides of the story.
Here’s why I’m so passionate about intrapreneurs.
1. The corporate world grew rapidly back in the day
2. New management workflows led to constraints and limitations
3. The new generation couldn’t (or didn’t want to) adapt to this “cubicle” life cycle
4. Entrepreneurship became the new school of life
And now these entrepreneurial folks who actually want to execute (instead of spending 90% of their time on fighting fires, recruitment, sales, legal, bookkeeping) get back to innovative organizations seeking self-driven individuals with both management and hard skills.
Encouraging Intrapreneurship Among Employees
I’m a proponent of intrapreneurship being a crucial part of every large business or enterprise organization.
If everyone out there founded a company, we won’t have the ability to work together on solving problems under a leadership that defines the direction. I wrote an article on the life cycle of an entrepreneur that will give you additional insights.
Many entrepreneurs don’t consider that alternative in the first place. The reason could be ego, a determination to work independently, or the lack of support within their existing organization.
A lot of companies are already adapting to the new wave of talent, especially mid-sized ones since they need strong leadership with actual hard skills to keep the ball rolling.
Intrapreneurship would benefit both parties, entrepreneurs who aren’t happy and companies failing to bring strong leadership in place. I do see the trend evolving over the past year, though, so I’m happy to be a preacher myself.
Most companies encourage intrapreneurship through any of the following:
1. There are bonus systems, commissions (sales teams are full proof), and different models. Equity is not the only solution to the problem.
2. In an average company, you can have enough senior positions and still have a lot of freedom.
3. For the top performers, there are other variants. Joint participation in another company, financing and support from the company to the human project among others.
Outstanding Qualities of Intrapreneurs
Intrapreneurs are highly necessary for most organizations primarily because of the qualities they possess. They are generally passionate and experienced, as well as talented and horizontally-skilled experts in their management or founding roles with their previous companies and are now available in the market.
I used to work for a remote company owned by a brilliant founder. In their selection process, they see to it that they only hire former business owners or freelancers who were around for at least a certain number of years, building the entire company around the intrapreneurship model.
Intrapreneurs are often opinionated and not as obedient as regular employees are. They also realize what opportunities are theirs for the taking.
If a company can convince an intrapreneur with their commitment and business value, then it will be the start of a successful partnership. This collaboration will massively accelerate businesses and grow careers forward.
Are You Going for Entrepreneurship or Intrapreneurship?
If you’re contemplating a startup or looking for a career change:
What are your career goals 5, 10, 15 years from now?
If you are already completely happy, there’s nothing wrong with spending your entire career as an employee.
Being employed gives you the leverage of not thinking about:
- Office spaces
- Project management
- Legal regulations
You can pretty much do whatever you enjoy all day long, wrap up at 6 pm, get back home, spend some time with the family, plan holidays, travel around.
The last time I went offline for more than two days was probably a decade ago.
If you want to work on your own, start a company, spend a good chunk of your time on sales and negotiations, create marketing campaigns, juggle several projects at once, overcome objections and scope creep, deal with the latest legal regulations (such as GDPR or VAT MOSS) – sure, go ahead and allocate half of your time on these.
That also includes dealing with intellectual property, conducting interviews, dealing with turnover, filling out various financial declarations – the list goes on.
If you don’t want to get overwhelmed, yet are still curious, take an online course or two. Read a book once a month on a topic irrelevant to tech or leadership. Join a meetup group for business or marketing.
You don’t have to limit yourself completely with technical and business matters. But, don’t get stressed out if you’re happy with your day job and don’t see any obstacles practicing that in the future. The world needs expert employees as well.
The Bottom Line: Launching a Business Is Not the Only Option
Entrepreneurship can be very challenging and exhausting since you have to hustle 80-100 hours a week for months, if not over a year. It also requires a ton of experience and effort that may adversely affect your relationships with other people and even your health.
You can easily avoid going through all of these by working 45–55 hours a week for an organization as part of the management team or take on any role that has huge responsibilities in an organization.
Having an entrepreneurial employee in a company is considered a major asset. If more people like you would join organizations that are progressive with roles that allow you to handle separate departments using shared funds and resources, then there will be mutually beneficial opportunities.
Jump straight to The 2020 Business Guide to Intrapreneurship next for a more in-depth discussion on intrapreneurship.