Guest Post by: Patrick J. McGinnis, a venture capitalist and private equity investor who founded Dirigo Advisors, after a decade on Wall Street, to provide strategic advice to investors, entrepreneurs, and fast-growing businesses. He is the author of the new book THE 10% ENTREPRENEUR: Live Your Startup Dream Without Quitting Your Day Job.
In less than a generation, two clear and unrelenting trends have transformed the workplace.
First, traditional careers have lost a lot of their luster. Corporate roles are notoriously less reliable and less lucrative than they were in the past. Even once highly prestigious paths like law, finance, and medicine, have lost their appeal thanks to falling pay, layoffs, and an unwillingness by many companies and industries to change with the times.
Second, even as many traditional careers and companies remain stuck in the past, transformational change is afoot when it comes to how we work and live. In less than a generation, our society has been transformed by technology – it is now deeply woven into the fabric of our personal and professional lives. As such, it is ubiquitous, it is cheap, and it is only getting cheaper.
When you’re carrying around a smartphone, it’s almost too easy to forget the considerable investment you needed to make to run your own business just ten years ago. Building a website represented a considerable investment and telecommunications were expensive. Now, thanks to companies like Squarespace, Skype, and Google, you can basically put yourself in business with an investment of a few hours and a few dollars. The basic infrastructure you to get going, from email to storage in the cloud, is basically free. Once you’re up and running, you can then promote a business with a very minimal investment thanks to social media.
The falling price of technology, coupled with widespread connectivity is a game changer for anyone who has dreamed of doing something entrepreneurial. It’s never been cheaper and easier to start and manage a business, technology focused or otherwise. You need little more than a laptop, an Internet connection, and a smartphone to run the day-to-day operations of a small business. You also probably need very little money or to hire full-time employees to get started. Most importantly you don’t need to punch a clock from 9 to 5. You can make the rules, working when you’re like and from wherever you’d like.
You Can Become an Entrepreneur on Your Own Terms
The decline in the price of starting businesses, coupled with the falling appeal of traditional careers means that a growing number of professionals are opting to become part-time entrepreneurs. Rather than shouldering the considerable risks of leaving their jobs to launch new ventures, they enjoy the best of both worlds. They can try new ideas and perhaps even fail, but they do so without jeopardizing all of the rewards that have come with years of success and hard work in their careers. By spending at least 10% of their time, and if possible their money, working on new ventures, either as an investor, an advisor, or a founder, they can build lasting value – and diversification – for themselves. They are 10% Entrepreneurs.
It comes down to a change in mindset. Full-time entrepreneurship is a terrific path for some, but it’s not obligatory. If you’re looking to pick up skills that will help you at your day job or even put you on a path to the next step in your career, there’s another option. Why not take a more sustainable path by integrating entrepreneurial opportunities into your current career? It’s a simple, yet somewhat radical idea: you don’t have to be an entrepreneur, but you can be entrepreneurial.
This new mind-set is based on a completely new set of rules: just because you work at an established company and receive a steady pay check doesn’t mean that you cannot join the ranks of the innovators and the disruptors. As a 10% Entrepreneur, you will search out and engage with projects, drawing on all of the skills and relationships you have built over the course of your educational and professional lives. By leveraging your base of experience and your network, you will develop new skills. Plus, you will be the owner of everything you create, no matter what happens in your day job.
10% Entrepreneurship is All About Mindset
If you’ve never really viewed yourself as an entrepreneur – even a part-time entrepreneur – changing your mindset can take time. When I meet people who are looking for more in the careers, whether in the form of diversification, upside, or satisfaction, I’m often surprised at how quickly they discard the idea of integrating part-time ventures into their lives. Their reasons are remarkably uniform: “I’m too busy,” or “I don’t have any good ideas,” or even “I’m afraid.”
One of the hardest things about exploring new ventures is the temptation to feel outgunned. You might ask yourself why should you, of all people, think that you can start something new if you’ve never done it before. Sure, you’ve got experience and relationships, but it’s natural to feel a little (or a lot) intimidated. when you’re putting yourself out there rather than representing a corporate brand on a business card. As a 10% Entrepreneur, you will need to put yourself out there. You will constantly be pitching to people, telling them what you can bring to the table, seeking to establish credibility based on your past experiences, your relationships, and your vision. It can be intimidating or even downright scary.
I get it. When I took part in my first few projects as a 10% Entrepreneur, I felt like I was walking around in a dark room in search of a light switch. Now 5 years and 20 projects later, I have built a valuable portfolio of investments in startups, real estate, and even a theater production in London. Each endeavor brings new experiences and challenges that assure me that I’m on the right path.
As little as a decade ago, there were plenty of other barriers to worry about if you wanted to start a new venture, but in their absence, mindset is now, in a fundamental sense, the new constraint to entrepreneurship. The challenge today is to to have the courage build something that is sustainable and that will create value, both financial and personal, over the course of your career. So if you’re convinced that part-time entrepreneurship is for you, remember that it’s mindset that will take you you from daydream to action. Also, remember that you really have very little to lose – when you are investing just 10% of your time and capital, what’s the worst that can happen? Even if you fail, you’ll have learned something. And when you succeed, you’ll see the world from a new and far more entrepreneurial perspective.