Many entrepreneurs start pursuing a passion project with the intention of keeping it small, to bring in some extra cash while they continue to balance a full time role. But others have visions of going out on their own, hoping to leave their corporate job and go out on their own when the time is right.
Scott Marr was one such entrepreneur, working full-time in banking when he started washing businesses' trucks on the side in 2009. When this side hustle earned him 45K per year, he quickly saw the potential to scale and left his full time role to found Fleet Clean USA, which he grew from a small side hustle into a national franchise business.
Marr shared some of his tips for planning the expansion of a side hustle into a full-time career, sharing some of the questions to ask, steps to take and important considerations when weighing your options.
Ask the right questions.
"Emerging entrepreneurs often assume that the first step in launching a business is to draft a business plan," Marr says. "Before making the decision to turn a side hustle into a business, entrepreneurs must ask themselves the right questions and consider some critical factors."
- Where do you want to be, personally and professionally? Spend some time envisioning your ideal future to see if this new business will actually help get you there.
- What would it take for you to turn a side hustle into a successful business? How much time, money, skills or other resources are needed to take this business to the next level?
- Can you actually achieve this? Is it realistic for you to put forth the effort and resources to make this happen in the timeline you need to?
Align your personal & professional goals.
"Launching a business is never easy, and you need to ensure that your personal goals reflect your professional goals," Marr says.
Your business doesn't exist in a bubble, but as an extension of your life. Since starting and growing a business involves a fair amount of risk and investment, you may want to consider delaying large purchases in other areas of your life, too -- like a car or home -- to reduce your liability as you focus your time and funds on your fledgling business. This may involve a conversation with your spouse or family, since these choices can impact others, too.
"It's important to make decisions that benefit your business - both professionally and personally," Marr says.
Expand your network.
"Relationship building is the core of creating a successful business," Marr says. "It's crucial to have strong, positive relationships with those who can help you in building your business."
At the top of the list? Your community bank. Marr points out that many new or young entrepreneurs may have difficulties getting business loans from large banks, and a strong relationship with your community bank could be the key to getting the funds you need to grow and expand.
"Similarly, network with other like-minded business owners within your community," Marr suggests. "This will give you an opportunity to learn directly from them, and gain insight on their keys to success. Whether it's learning how they overcame the challenges in launching their business or discussing business tips and best practices, always look to learn from others."
Know when to spend money.
Side hustles often thrive because they are lean operations where you handle most of the work yourself. But a growing business can't function that way, and being hesitant to spend and hire on the things that matter most can inhibit your growth.
"I initially felt hesitant to hire many new employees while growing Fleet Clean," Marr says. "I didn't believe that the benefits were worth the cost, but I was wrong."
"The added help and expertise from the employees that I ended up bringing onto the team have been crucial to our success," he says. "Spending money on factors critical to the success of your company is money well spent. "
Don't underestimate the value of doing the right thing.
"I hate the phrase 'it's just business'," Marr says. Just because your business is growing, doesn't mean it needs to be cold and impersonal. Staying true to your heart, and looking out for your employees and your customers is important to scaling a business you can be proud of.
"Creating a culture where employees are excited about the work they do each day sets up a cycle of success within the business that truly pays off," Marr says. "Whether I'm working with an employee at the corporate office or a Fleet Clean franchisee, a positive relationship with those on my team is always important to me."