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Special section 6 ways to get ahead in the office or get out

It's tough to get a new business going, so it often pays to keep your day job while launching your entrepreneurial venture.

To make your startup a success, keep your day job

For small-business owners, dealing with explosive growth right out of the gate is a high-quality problem and one that Kuna cites as Dream Dinners biggest challenge during the first year. "It was such a tremendous success from the very beginning; it was physically and mentally demanding -- keeping the balls in the air with the family and creating this whole new business."

It's not only the entrepreneurs who must suffer through their businesses' growing pains; the families feel it as well. "They were very, very supportive," Kuna says. "I have three kids and a husband and that first year I was working 18 to 20 hours a day and my husband was at home picking up the things that I wasn't able to do. It was also a sacrifice on my kid's parts but it's much better now. And it was the same with Stephanie's family. In fact now, our husbands work for us."

The Wills, who started The Sports Section while both were otherwise employed, say the best way to coordinate a full-time job and a new business is to budget your time. The organization won't give you more hours in the day, but it will help you do as much as you can in the time you do have.

O'Berry thinks you should handle the starting of a sideline business much as you would any other project. "Come up with an action plan, establish deadlines, determine what you want to get done, how much money you will need," she says. "Then break it all down into bite-size, achievable steps."

Dealing with dual loyalties
Another disadvantage is that you won't be able to grow your company as quickly as you would if it were your full-time endeavor. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, O'Berry says.

"I think that slow and steady is always better than fast and furious," the Florida business consultant says. "There's nothing wrong with growing a company slowly."

And you'll have to deal with whether to tell your boss about your new company.

It all comes down to your relationship with your employer and what kind of a leader they are. "I was very fortunate that I had a great employer, he was very supportive and willing to work with me," says Kuna. "He was excited about the opportunity for me. I was very lucky."

While each entrepreneurial situation is different, O'Berry believes it's usually better to tell your employer what you intend to do. "If there's a possibility of a conflict, you definitely should tell your boss," she says.

By doing so, you have an opportunity to work out problems. You'll also increase the odds that you can stay employed rather than being fired because your boss found out after the fact that you started your own business.

Regardless of whether you tell your employer about your new venture, be sure to keep the two enterprises separate. Continue to be professional at your salaried situation; don't make calls on behalf of your new business while at your "old" job.

Given the high turnover rate for startups, it's smart to stay on good terms with your employer just in case you have to depend solely on your full-time job again.

Jenny C. McCune is a contributing editor based in Montana.
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-- Updated: Feb. 26, 2007
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