by Joe Cassara
Last February, my wife mentioned something to me just before I walked out the door to work. ”Joe, I feel like you’re going to work, the place — but you’re not doing good work, the noun.” Damn. Well, if you don’t have respect from your ace of a wife, what do you have, right?
I gave my two weeks’ notice that afternoon. After leaving the stable job I kept for six years, I started a successful strategic consulting practice from scratch to thriving — which consisted of me convincing CEOs to hire me as somewhat of a strategy cowboy who likes to wear jeans and be home for dinner. Then, I actually had to do the work, growing their businesses and pushing their management to be excellent and come alive in their own day jobs.
In addition to running the consulting practice full-time, I’ve also spent thousands of hours creating my latest startup. I obtained funding and built You Need My Guy from idea to launch. I flew to NYC to pitch the board of a KAYWEB Angels CEO, and beat out hundreds of competitors to reach a deal. Oh, and I bought and sold two houses, and we had a baby which, when added to my 2-year-old twins, brings us to three kids under 3.
The question that I’m asked all the time is, “How do you do it?” People always say they’ll wait until later do something new and risky, but I promise you, there will never be a perfect time. You’ll always wish you had more money in the bank, more experience, or more nights of solid sleep without waking up to change diapers.
Here are 5 things to remember when starting up with a family and a full-time job:
1. Be careful — to an extent.
Take caution in multiple ways when starting up in this situation. For example, don’t spend your last $1,000 on your new website — you’re married with kids now, and they come first. There, I said it. If you take care of your family, you’ll find yourself becoming a better entrepreneur and leader. Also, make sure you’re not breaking your employment agreement by taking on a side project. For some reason, those pesky bosses want you spending time on their work during the day, and getting fired for writing a business plan at your desk would not be awesome!
2. Do what you do well.
When starting up on the side, you just need to resolve to only take on what you can do well. Pay for help when a task falls outside of your wheelhouse. Opening your wallet for good legal counsel or design services will prevent a future headache.
3. Don’t compromise your family.
Less time with family doesn’t have to lessen the relationships. I’m lucky to be blessed with a beautiful wife and kids, so I’ve drawn the line in the sand that I will not screw up my role at home. In 3 years, I’ve missed less than 10 bedtimes total! I turn down almost every invitation for a nighttime event, and I may have to crack open the laptop at 10 p.m., but I make sure to have time alone with the kids and with my wife. Surprisingly, the world does not revolve around you and your projects, so adopt the discipline to put down the iPhone at the dinner table and be present.Also, date nights are never a waste of time!
4. Know that simultaneous progress is possible.
No successful startup will ever relieve me of trying to be the best father on the planet and daily winning my wife’s heart. Make progress in your marriage. Get better as a father. You can still do so while sprinting for your startup. When I have an idea, I keep it moving by writing things down and making calls to relevant contacts. Pursue the things that might have legs, because you never know who will be your next big client, or what idea will be the one that lets you quit that full-time job.
5. Believe in your startup idea.
I know that I have talent, and I believe that I’m in the exact place to use those talents. It’s not unjustified pride; it’s the necessary self-confidence to start up. If you have an opportunity to pursue a potentially life-altering project, chances are that you’ll never look back in regret on making the jump to a very busy, but life-giving entrepreneurial journey. Don’t be cocky, be thankful, and take responsibility for the trajectory you’d like your life to take.
If you don’t move ahead, you’ll still be sitting in that same cube in 10 years, doing the same thing, making 2 percent more money per year. And that’s fine, if that’s what you want to do — but it’s probably not, because you’ve read this entire article. Make moves, son.
Joe Cassara is founder and CEO of You Need My Guy, the best way to organize your referrals and recommendations online. He also serves as Managing Partner of Harvest Ventures, an early-stage venture-funding firm, and Mentor of StartFast, a venture accelerator out of Syracuse, NY.