There's a lot of hype that's aimed at entrepreneurs encouraging them to go out on a limb, bet the farm, burn bridges, and do the entrepreneurship thing full time and whole hog. If you don't, it's implied, you're not "really" an entrepreneur.

Uh-huh.

I was talking about this the other day with an entrepreneur whose wild string of successes, including Fubu and a variety of other ventures, and his strong commitment to mentorship, including recent collaboration with Capital One on the subject, have given him perspective: Shark Tank's Daymond John. His message in a nutshell? Don't believe the hype.

Daymond used himself as an example, pointing out to me that even while Fubu was looking quite promising, Daymond made a point of holding down a day job at Red Lobster to make ends meet without sacrificing his entrepreneurial vision.

And he recommends a similar approach for almost any other entrepreneur. He divided his advice--"for most that you should never, never quit your day job to be an entrepreneur,"--into three points, as follows:

1. Many new business concepts need time to gel in a form that makes sense. This shouldn't be rushed, frantic time, but steady time invested over the course of a calendar year. At first that might be just an hour a week, then five hours a week. It'll probably be a year before you're even ready to think closely about whether this is really a viable business or not. While you're making that determination, you need to keep your life going. The bills are not going to wait on you through this exploratory period.

2. If you do make the determination that your business is viable, it's still probably not time to quit. If you do, you're going to go into business with a stress on your shoulders, because even a viable business, at first, is probably not going to pay your bills.

3. The alternative here is to raise a lot of money, which may or may not be a good idea. But even if you do take this route, that money should be going toward your business, not toward your living expenses.

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My own experience as a lifetime entrepreneur (I started my first business when I was 14) and consultant to other businesses of all sizes makes me agree with what John lays out here. Getting your own business off the ground while working a straight job is the way to be smart about entrepreneurship, to reduce the risks involved, and to give yourself the breathing space to get your concept and operations really right without pressure from investors or, heaven forbid, creditors. (It also, until very, very recently, was the only realistic way to keep your health insurance--and I don't care how smart an entrepreneur you think you are, I think you're a bloody idiot if you regard health insurance as merely optional.)

So, get used to saying, "Would you like fries with that?" And hold your head up high while you do it. Your (full) time will come.

Published on: Jun 29, 2015