Although entrepreneurship fascinates and excites people from many walks of life, not everyone wants to go all in and start a business. Why, most of us don’t even consider moonlighting to start a side hustle. Many of us get by fine at work, and find the idea of jeopardizing our current jobs quite unimaginable.
Yet, we have those fleeting moments when we fancy ourselves as start-up founders of some sort. Those moments make us wonder: How does it feel to be in the shoes of a founder? Is there a way I can get a taste of starting a new venture? Could I sample the essence of entrepreneurship while continuing with my job? If you have ever felt that way, this article is for you.
Stories in media heighten the glamor for ‘following your dreams’, ‘risking-it-all’, or ‘breaking away from the mold.’ Now, starting a new company can be a life-changing experience. Therefore, striking out on your own is not a decision to be taken lightly. Who said entrepreneurship is necessarily about starting a new company, though? I prefer a broader view of entrepreneurship which preserves its essence: pursuing opportunities despite constraints. Once you buy into this view, new venture or not, you can practice entrepreneurial behaviors in your work and life.
So, whether you decide to start a new company in the new year or not, here is a way you can experience the thrill and challenges of entrepreneurship. The plan I suggest here involves infusing entrepreneurial behaviors in your day-to-day life. I break it down in seven steps, each illustrated with an example
Ready? Here we go.
1. Pick an idea you are passionate about.
Look around you to spot an idea that might be of interest to you—an idea that addresses the opportunity to create economic or social value. You could pick an idea related to what you already do. For example, if you are a manager who’s passionate about books, you might decide to start a reading club in your team. You might think of this as team-building and knowledge-sharing idea that would improve the team’s output. You could also pick an idea that addresses an opportunity of social relevance: Maybe your idea is to make your neighborhood a model green zone with zero-waste.
2. Make a small commitment to that idea.
Think about what you are willing to invest—money, time, resources, or social capital—to make your idea a success. For example, if you are going ahead with the book club, maybe you need to invest a bit of time to curate some interesting reads. You may also need to invest a bit of cash to buy the coffee for the book reading sessions. Make this commitment, and your idea begins to morph into the pursuit of opportunity.
With this step, you have started the process of opportunity enactment—the back-and-forth process between your product and a possible market—that I describe in my writing on entrepreneurial opportunities.
3. Assess your resources.
Knowing what resources you have helps you decide how much you are willing to bite. Do you have the knowledge, social network, time, and money to make a beginning? If you are short on these resources, how might you stretch what you already have? If you can execute on your idea easily with your current resources, consider pursuing a more ambitious idea.
Howard Stevenson, a highly-regarded academic in the field of entrepreneurship who taught at Harvard Business School, described entrepreneurship as the relentless pursuit of opportunity beyond resources currently controlled. Go ahead and dream big.
4. Ask for a small commitment from others.
Entrepreneurship isn’t about being a lone ranger. Sure, you can personally go and plant 100 trees in your neighbourhood and water them every day. But that’s not sustainable, scalable, or even feasible.
One crucial (and challenging) aspect of entrepreneurship is getting others to commit to your idea. Emotionally too, it is a big step because you’re inviting someone to leave their imprint on what was till now, completely your baby. But to take it from ‘my’ idea to ‘our’ idea means finding common ground. That’s the only way that other people can ‘own’ the idea in the true sense and become the co-founders you want them to be. They are likely to put in their best effort only if it truly becomes their idea. Else, they may take it casually, putting your endeavor at risk.
5. Take a baby step.
Go ahead. Call that book club meeting. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this step because, let’s face it, doing something with your idea is what entrepreneurship is all about. This is where the opportunity you pursue comes to life. In this step, you truly transform what was an idea into a real-life activity that involves real people.
Because you’re sticking your neck out—for example, asking people to join the book club meeting; you are also exposing yourself to the risk of failure. Let’s say no one shows up at the meeting and you become the laughing stock of your team. Doesn’t that make you feel vulnerable? This vulnerability is precisely what makes success that much sweeter. If you get past this stage, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You’ve done it. You’ve gotten past the most difficult part.
6. Take stock of the developing opportunity.
As your pursuit gains momentum, things may start to change and take a life of their own. Maybe you had envisioned a book club for your team, but you notice that someone has brought along a colleague from another team who is curious and interested. A couple of members suggest doing this activity regularly. Some others suggest having fun with team-building exercises instead of reading.
In entrepreneur-speak, this may lead to pivoting, something that may take your activity in exciting new directions that you had not envisioned earlier.
7. Reflect on how you are changing.
Do take time to sit back and ponder about the experience. Did you enjoy stretching your resources in new and surprising ways? How did it feel when others pitched in with their ideas to make your original idea even more valuable? Would you do anything differently, with the benefit of hindsight?
As your project takes shape, you will start observing how you are changing with it. Perhaps you feel encouraged to try out new ideas regardless of success or failure. Perhaps you feel less inhibited in sharing your ideas with others and seeking their support.
That’s the seven-step plan for getting a taste of entrepreneurship without quitting your day job. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and infuse your next idea into the world you live in! The results would vary, but one thing is for sure: You would have had your encounter with entrepreneurship by the time we’re at the end of 2018.