This is the fifth article of the “How to build a business in part-time” series.
Have you ever noticed that most of the part-time businesses fail even before they are launched?
Quite fascinating, isn’t it?
So after all those statistics telling you that 80% (or more) of businesses don’t survive their first year, we come to realize what is actually the hardest is getting the business to see the daylight.
Why does this happen?
We’ve covered in our last post – the 4th Chapter of ‘How to create a business in part-time’ – the key psychological barriers to launching a business. As a recap, these are:
- Feeling of injustice
- Losing the long term vision
- Comfort Zone
In fact, it all comes down to psychology. Money issues are usually not the reason why a team can’t launch a business.
I mean, obviously you might be forced to adjust your business to a cheaper level if you don’t have the necessary capital budget, but that is something you can manage to work around, most of the times.
It is amazing how our mind can be our best friend or worst enemy. No doubt, for all these years I’ve been focusing on entrepreneurship and trying to have an impact in the world, I’ve understood so far that our toughest obstacle is our own mind.
It will usually trick us to believe we actually have a point for doing something that goes against what we’re really looking to obtain in life.
It is important to state that we won’t be yet analyzing how to create the perfect business model or how to minimize risk.
We’ve done a bit of that while we were understanding how to select an idea and what are the key ingredients for success. But for now, the core issue to be addressed is: What separates a successful team from another that gives up in the way?
I’m sure you can find multiple reasons, but I’ve tried to summarize them into the most important, applying the Pareto Principle here as well, focusing on solving 20% of the issues that impact 80% of the outcomes.
What I’ve found out is the main barriers to launching a part-time business can all be solved effectively by having a team with a small set of critical attributes:
- Great leadership
- Valuing each other
- Powerful daily habits
This is definitely the formula to be able to launch a business. I have to be honest, launching a business without one of these attributes is the same as playing tennis with your hand.
Because the Leadership is probably the most important trace of a successful team and is also transversal amongst the three topics, we will dedicate more time to it.
#1 GREAT LEADERSHIP
A typical part-time project will be designed by a small team that has already some previous professional experience. That experience is an asset to be leveraged, but it can also be a bottleneck.
When it comes to leadership, for instance, there is usually a huge gap between the type of leader a startup needs and the ‘leaders’ we see in the corporate world.
Quite often, in your full-time job, you will find the so-called ‘positional supervisors’.
These are men and women that get to be promoted to a coordination position – this means they manage a team of people – often because they have some type of attribute that is recognized as superior to the average; it might be their determination, their capability to coordinate, their communication skills, their organization, and so on.
However, what we now know is that even though being a true leader doesn’t require more than a narrow set of key skills, most of these positional supervisors do not possess those qualities.
They aren’t bad persons, they aren’t even bad professionals, they just lack the inner characteristics of a true leader, which happens to be what startups need.
And this is a major issue.
You see, we spend most of our lifetime working with positional supervisors within the corporate world. So when we start our part-time business, we will be inclined to transfer the same type of leadership we’re used to into a startup reality.
Which won’t help at all. First things first, what’s the difference between a positional supervisor and a true leader?
The difference between true leaders and positional supervisors
There are hundreds or thousands of authors who have published best-selling books about leadership and I’m not pretending to be an expert on the matter.
So let’s keep it simple. Based on multiple authors and in my own experience, these are the most relevant gaps you can identify in positional supervisors:
- They don’t feel obliged to motivate the team;
- They don’t realize their job is to not demotivate people;
- They don’t inspire others to be like them or to become their best self-version;
- They tend to think the team works for them, instead of understanding the true reality: they should be working for their team.
A true leader is someone who inspires others to become their best version and to grow beyond what they previously thought was even possible; someone who inspires and develops trust, who works with a high level of emotional intelligence, is capable of keeping the team motivated and, especially, capable of developing and maintaining the momentum flowing.
A part-time startup requires a great leader, a true one.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find true leaders as they are one extremely rare being on earth.
The good news is: they aren’t always in supervising positions at corporations, you can find or develop a leader within yourself, even if you don’t manage a team, or in a colleague close to you. It happens the true leadership skills aren’t necessarily what corporate companies most value, that’s why most of the time they aren’t even in the typical corporate firms.
But there you go, the first major difference comes down to leadership. Now we will understand, specifically, what is the role of the group leader so the project remains alive and well until it is successfully launched.
The vision gatekeeper
‘Vision’ is nowhere close to a buzzword, please do not assume that every time people say something about having a vision or a long-term perspective he’s talking about some old and usual B.S. who nobody really cares.
The most successful persons in the world have visions for their lives and for the ones around them, and that is one of the main reasons why they managed to get there.
Having a vision for the startup is immensely important. Actually, having a vision for anything in life is immensely important. You always want to make sure you start with the end in sight and hold down to that vision forever.
Let me give you the typical example I often tell to people.
A vision is a very real picture the human mind creates of where he wants to be and how he will arrive there.
Most likely you won’t know for sure how to arrive there – that’s the tricky part – but knowing from the beginning where you want to be is already a major advantage. The large majority of people never get to know what they are looking for.
Now, when you’re creating a part-time business, do you know what you should be aiming for?
Simple: to conquer the world!
I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the point, you want to aim as high as possible. And someone in the group, usually the leader, will share with the others a very clear picture of what is this high-end goal, which is crucial for the team to remain hunger and passionate about what they’re trying to create.
But a leader’s role is not only to initially present the vision to the group. He will also make sure this vision remains vivid in everyone’s minds, as regularly the leader will be communicating with the others how are they moving towards their end goal.
This is why the leader is called the vision gatekeeper.
(I’m a geek, can’t help it.)
Having a leader that keeps the project’s vision fresh in everyone’s mind is absolutely crucial to successfully launch a business.
Setting the pace
If there’s one thing I usually say every leader does is setting the pace.
Can you imagine being on an army parade where the drums are setting the pace? Everyone is walking at the same pace because of the drums rhythm. If they accelerate, the army will move faster, and the opposite happens if the rhythm slows down.
Setting the pace is how I’ve defined the capacity to keep the team focused on solving the project’s action points and getting things done.
Once again, when your startup doesn’t have a clear and great leader, there is a propensity for workload volatility. This means the founders will work a lot on certain days while in others they won’t do anything at all for the project.
You see, the problem with having such a high volatility when working at a part-time job is:
- You will get burned out faster because every time you work into the night in your personal hours, you will feel more and more exhausted;
- And therefore, the next couple of days you won’t feel like working, you will actually tend to believe you’ve done a lot some days ago and now’s the time to rest a bit;
- When you stop these days to rest, you’re breaking the momentum flow, which will make it harder to get back on working.
It is a vicious cycle, it will destroy your stamina and in a month, you won’t be lifting a finger to work on your part-time project.
Do you remember what we’ve talked about momentum? Let’s just recap really fast:
‘A body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force’ – Isaac Newton.
So what should you do?
It is much better to work a bit each day and to do it every single day than to work lots of hours in one day and making long breaks afterward because you got burned out.
There’s one great quote from John C. Maxwell I’d like to share with you.
‘People quite often overestimate what they can achieve in one day, and underestimate what they can achieve in a lifetime’.
This is huge, give it a thought.
When you apply this reasoning to a part-time business, I trust you will understand that keeping the momentum and working a little bit every day is the way to go, so each day you see progress.
You want to make sure each day your brain is releasing dopamine, as you see progress and feel you’re closer to your goal.
And the role of a great leader? Simple. The leader will be the one making sure everyone works a bit each day without burning out, by understanding that is much better to keep the team sharp, motivated to work a bit every single day and surrounded by a positive and fresh mindset than to have the founders completely exhausted and feeling that creating a part-time business is a nightmare in addition to the daily problems they already have.
He will be setting the pace, defining the goals with the team, agreeing on deadlines, communicating why the team does a given task instead of another and, at the end of the day, how close the team is getting from their end vision.
Having the guts to take necessary decisions
The third timeless characteristic of a great leader will always be the capability to do what must be done.
Quite often you will find these three scenarios within any startup project:
- Someone isn’t focused on creating the business anymore;
- Someone is dedicating fewer hours to the project;
- The business idea doesn’t have market acceptance and the team must pivot.
In each one of these scenarios, the role of a leader will be crucial because, without a true leader, most of the people will unconsciously reduce the importance of these issues as they are really hard to deal with.
The problem is: the more we ignore them, the more our project suffers with them and, in the long term, nothing good will come from maintaining these rotten apples within the company.
These are killer issues that must be addressed. Whether because they will eventually corrupt your project from the inside out or because your startup won’t be successful when it finally is launched.
Let’s address each one of these issues and understand how the team usually reacts without the existence of a leader.
- Someone isn’t focused on creating the business anymore
If the team sees one guy is not interested in creating the business anymore but he doesn’t want to officially state it, the other members will tend to believe the project is losing its momentum and credibility, as one of the founders already has his focus on other subjects. I mean, they won’t be able to count on that member anymore, therefore, they perceive the team as weaker.
And trust me, without leadership, two things usually happen in this circumstance: i) there is an argument that leads the other guy to abandon the project, negatively impacting the team climate or ii) nobody will say a word and the team will gradually decrease the level of interest in the project.
- Someone is dedicating fewer hours to the project
This is the typical issue that leads to the feeling of injustice. As we’ve discussed in the previous article, it is quite common to see a feeling of injustice arising within the team.
When the team doesn’t have the proper leadership, the members will immediately start comparing the amount of effort each one is putting into the project. And, therefore, when they see one guy is clearly working fewer hours and has the same equity stake, the team will think it’s not fair, which eventually leads to a major argument and the end of the project.
- The business idea doesn’t have market acceptance and the team must pivot
Usually, the founders are too stuck on their original idea. This might be an issue because it is very common to see successful teams pivoting ideas dozens of times before they are launched and pivoting some dozens more after the go live.
In this case, what will most likely happen is an argument within the team. Some members will defend they must pivot the idea while others will reinforce their trust in the original idea.
Without a leader and a clear majority of votes, the team will stand still and do nothing. It will become paralyzed, as no one has the capacity to unify the team and lead the way.
When a team becomes paralyzed, the same happens to the project. No one will feel inclined to advance the project, while this major issue isn’t solved.
Ultimately, and that’s what is really interesting, it won’t ever get solved! Nobody will be able to handle this and the team will just gradually decrease the level of interest in the project.
No matter how dumb this seems because we all know that sometimes a bad decision is better than a no-decision, just to keep the juices flowing, the reality is that a lot of part-time startups never come to see daylight precisely because of this.
Now, having the right leader will be the only way I know to handle these three issues. The leader will unify the team and have the will to do what’s necessary, namely:
- Asking the member who isn’t focused on the project to abandon;
- Explaining to the team that the number of hours doesn’t represent the value each one brings to the project, that they shouldn’t be establishing comparisons;
- Aligning the team and pivoting the idea when it is necessary, even if that means going back to the scratch stage, as the leader understands there’s no rush and the important is to do the right things in the right way.
And this is why having a great leader, who really is able to manage people, is of major importance for any startup to get launched.
But what does the team need besides the leader? Are there any other crucial traces within a successful team?
#2 VALUING EACH OTHER
Alright, we’ve arrived at the team culture part!
Some of you might argue that the leader is also crucial to the definition of team’s culture, and I get your point, I also think he plays a very important role.
Yet, even though I mention the importance of having great leadership in a startup, we cannot ignore the fact that it is a startup and, being so, the founders are not necessarily following a given culture, it isn’t like a corporate division in which if you are lucky to have a relaxed and easy-going director, the entire division will wear casual clothes and swear a lot during the day.
No, in this case, the culture is defined by each and every one of the founders, the leader shouldn’t be more important for that matter, it is a team issue.
And as a team issue, the culture will be an average of the founder’s values.
Now, you can name a lot of values that you believe will be critical for any team, I’m sure we all can find many different types of successful teams and each one of them will be unique in a given way.
What I’d like to tell you here is what I believe is the critical value any team culture must possess in order to avoid the rise of an injustice feeling, which is definitely very common.
And this is something I’ve learned with my mother! Oh yeah.
You know, I was also impacted by the temptation of comparing the hours each member was putting into the project when I was creating my part-time startup, and my mother was actually the person who told me something new, which I didn’t yet forget to this day.
This is also the reason why it is a fallacious idea to think that everyone in a startup project should be putting a number of hours correspondent to their equity stake in the company.
You see, I was having dinner with my mother and sharing with her that I was so damn frustrated with my colleagues, and especially with one of them, who seemed was having a nice vacation while creating our business, while I felt like giving everything I had and extremely burned out.
In those days, I used to have a lot of arguments with my team partners because I deeply felt they weren’t putting as much effort as I was putting daily, aggravated by the fact we had the same equity stake of the company.
Note: curiously, this happened more frequently in the project stage, because when you launch the business, usually you won’t have time to waste with this type of argument.
And one day at dinner, talking with my mother, she told me something quite interesting.
‘Pedro, you have to understand that, even though you’re upset with your colleagues’ attitudes, if they weren’t working with you, probably you wouldn’t have made it this far.’
I, then, started thinking about this, and she was right! It’s quite simple and trivial, but definitely was something new to me.
It’s amazing how we tend to forget how valuable another human being might be, even though he’s not working the same number of hours that I am.
What my mother wanted to say is that, even though I had this drive to create something huge, was leading the team and setting the pace, I couldn’t make it all by myself.
My colleagues’ roles were crucial, obviously not only because of the manpower but mainly because they were people who I trusted and with whom I could share the pain of creating a part-time business.
They definitely had their unique qualities, but that’s not the point. The point is, we tend to focus on our pain and selfishness, as we feel we’re working harder than others, but we often forget what would happen if the others wouldn’t have joined us in the first place.
If I was working alone, I’m sure I wouldn’t get past the idea stage.
So long story short, it is key to understand that there are infinite other ways to bring value to a team.
Some guys can bring connections. Others might work 5 minutes a day, but they do something specific that is worth having them with us because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do that even in 1 week. Some guys are just a great company with whom you can talk and reflect on your business, so you want to keep them close because they help you to stay motivated.
My humble advice: do not compare working hours, do not focus on that. Try to clearly see the value each one of the members is bringing to the team, besides just hours. And especially, think about what would happen if they weren’t with you.
#3 POWERFUL DAILY HABITS
Finally, there are some practical recommendations you should be following every single day in order to successfully launch a part-time business.
Did you think for a second that we wouldn’t mention some band aids? Of course, we will, and these are strict guidelines I definitely recommend you use, as they also helped me getting through the project stage, launching a business and, most importantly, keeping our team focused and committed every single day.
Be more productive in your full-time job
Nope, it’s not a misspell, I really mean you should make your best to maximize your productivity during the day on the full-time job.
What do I mean?
Well, most of us have developed along the years some daily habits that when accumulated will amount to several hours per day in non-productive time.
Examples of such are the coffee breaks, having long lunches, chitchatting with the colleagues, among many others – for example, at a certain point I used to play Tetris, as I was really bored (and definitely hope my previous supervisors will never read this).
You should cut all these time-consuming activities and focus deeply on your full-time job. Let me tell you why:
- You will still feel great about doing a good job on what you’re rightfully paid to do;
- Because you feel great, you work with more satisfaction on your own side project at the end of the day;
- By working fewer hours and being more productive during the day, you will have more spare time to yourself so you can accomplish way more things, faster.
What maybe you don’t know, or at least I’ve come to understand too late, is that when you work on your startup during the time you should be working on the day job that gives you money at the end of the month, you might start feeling empty. It is a weird feeling, I must say.
I’ve done this a lot in the past during the times I was creating my part-time business. The corporation in which I was working was going through a tough period and people were very demotivated. So I’ve decided to focus on what I thought was definitely the most important to me (and still is nowadays): having my own business.
However, after a series of days (or months…) focusing mainly on entrepreneurship instead of my full-time responsibilities, I started feeling I was betraying the trust of my supervisors. So, I had this notion that I was a criminal ahah. Jokes apart, I think it will inevitably happen to everyone.
And what I’ve found is that every time I felt like a criminal, I wasn’t too focused on developing my startup neither.
So, as a summary, focus on your day job when you’re supposed to, be productive at it, and aim to achieve the best results within the 9 to 6, so you don’t end up feeling like a criminal. This will provide you with peace of mind to work a bit on your part-time business later during that day, and, hopefully, do it every single day until you can finally leave your day job.
I know it might seem awkward, but it’s honestly the sum of my own experiences and nobody ever told me this.
Meet daily with your partners
This is a straightforward one. I don’t want to sound too harsh, but I feel like slapping people’s faces whenever they tell me their project meetings are weekly or, more often that you can imagine, every two weeks.
I still remember when I was asking some colleagues of mine how was their project going and they used to tell me ‘It’s going great! We’re having a meeting next week with Mister X in order to evaluate if he’s interested in being our partner!’.
Wait, and what are you doing until the next week?
Look, this is serious, I would say 90% of part-time projects are completely based on this type of methodology: people meet when possible.
They will meet only when their day job, their family, their children, their dogs and their Padel friends let them. And I’m not even talking about being tired, because quite often the fatigue takes hold of us, as you know.
My question is: how will these guys ever create a business?
That doesn’t work, trust me.
You should be meeting your partners on a daily basis! At least once every two days, it is absolutely critical. Why?
Because that’s the way you really feel the project is growing.
You will only breath the project when you are with your colleagues, because in any other circumstance you will be working alone on your PC, and that’s not what creating a business is about.
So you need to meet with your colleagues, talk to them, let them know how excited you are about what you just found and share your vision with them.
Also, collaboration technologies such as Slack aren’t yet perfect, and my guess is that they will never be. You might think it is the same, but it isn’t.
It’s still better than not meeting with people at all, definitely, but it’s not the same as a human 1 on 1 interaction, as more than 60% of your communication is body language! The words are not that important.
So what should you do each day you meet with your colleagues? And when should you meet? After all, you must get some time to work every day as well, right?
Yes, you shouldn’t spend the entire evening meeting with your colleagues, it is still mandatory that you have the discipline to think and say ‘Ok, we’re done here, now it’s time to get some stuff done’.
You should manage to talk from 30 minutes to 1 hour with your partners, in person, every single day.
Here’s what is crucial that you guys share:
- What is each one of you doing right now? How’s it going?
- Are you guys having any unexpected challenge? Do you need any help?
- Let’s clarify all the issues together as a team
- Wrap up the meeting by aligning with everyone the next action points and deadlines
- Recap the project’s vision and save some minutes to chat about trivial life stuff.
This is the type of communication I expect from a successful team and I can assure you I was doing this with my colleagues when we were creating our first business in part-time. Well, we were smoking shisha at the same time, which helped, I guess, but it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you guys share daily experiences about the project.
Invest daily in yourself
This is one of my favorite topics.
Reading books or articles, listening to audiobooks or watching videos about the topics that are crucial for you to grow as a person is extremely important.
You see, the business potential is directly attached to the dimension of the founders (and I’m not talking about height).
If you want to create a successful business, you first must be able to lead and manage a great business, and for that you must think well, your reasoning must be in shape to overcome all the difficulties of creating a business and inspiring people to move along with you.
Besides, by reading and studying every single day, you will most likely feel motivated to continue your journey, mainly because you’re studying stuff from authors who have walked the same path and achieved something you’re fighting to achieve as well.
So they will be a source of inspiration to you.
Let me give you couple examples:
Most people tend to think their studying times have ended from the moment they left the university.
I have a bad time trying to control my will to ROFL.
Dude, I don’t even recall who said this (someone did because I didn’t invent it), but it’s a beautiful truth: in life, you are growing or decaying, there isn’t an in-between option.
You must be always, always, always making your best to improve as a person. Actually, some people could argue this is our end game in life – to become the best person we can possibly be.
My colleagues used to call me ‘Mouta book’ (hopefully not in a bad way ahah).
This happens because I was sure that by studying, I would grow as a person and, eventually, would be up to the task of building a dream company and leading people to create something truly impactful in the world.
Because I knew my colleagues weren’t that interested in studying by themselves, whether we’re talking about books, audiobooks or YouTube videos (anything matters), in our daily meetings I would share with them 1 or 2 theories about the topics I was studying.
If you’re wondering what are the topics I would recommend to grow as a person and as a leader, I will tell you, of course:
You have amazing authors who have written brilliant pieces of knowledge that have been built upon an entire millennium of people’s thoughts. Authors after authors working on incredible powerful theories about life and the human being, that you can benefit from in 1 week.
How good is that?
So I thought it was a good idea to finish this chapter by sharing with you some of the most powerful materials I’ve read or watched over the last years.
I will be sharing with you books (which most of them I’ve listened to in the form of audiobooks), articles and videos about Leadership, Strategy, and Self-development. This way, I trust you will be able to keep on improving your knowledge in order to successfully lead and contribute to a team, and grow as an overall human being, while you keep your motivation levels higher than ever.
Just follow this link and I’ll share with you these materials for free.
Thanks for reading guys, this was the fifth article of my “How to build a business in part-time” series and I will be launching a new chapter every week. This series’ purpose is to provide you with a structured and complete walkthrough guide on how you can build your part-time business to a tremendous success, so later on you can dedicate yourself to your dream company.
Feel free to let me know which topics would you like me to address, I’m glad to reply specifically to your question.
Also, if you enjoyed reading this post, don’t forget to subscribe here.