How I grew a startup while holding down a job.

I've run various businesses in various guises since high school. From undercutting the school tuck shop in 10th grade, to a Fibre business in my 30’s.

Every idea I've worked on or tried to execute has been plagued by 1 of 2 problems. It either needs capital to get off the ground, or it needs me to be the capital to get it off the ground.

As much as I'd love to devote my time 100% to a business that'll produce decent returns 3 years down the road, between here and there I have kids to put through school.

When I started Rocking Connect I was consulting to Private Equity firm in the same building, who approached me to join them full time.

Instead of just taking a job, I negotiated a salary and working hours that would allow me to pay the rent and school fees, while allowing me 2–3 hours a day to focus on my startup.

It did help that the Rocking Connect’s offices were downstairs, so commuting after work involved descending a staircase.

This balance allowed me to gradually grow Rocking Connect, without risking the house on it.

It’s been hard work, I won't lie. I'm often at work by 7am, and seldom leave before 6pm trying to accommodate both a job and a startup.

In the first year of running Rocking Connect, I managed to grow it to the point where I could employ someone to take over day to day operations. While the hour or two I invest each day goes towards growing and developing Rocking Connect rather than fighting operational fires.

Having someone on ground zero running with the ops means I've also been able to increase the hours I work in my ‘job’ which has helped the cash flow back home and taken a load of pressure off day to day family life.

At some point Rocking Connect will need my attention more, and I'll probably have to transition across there full time.

There are a couple of benefits that come with doing it this way, although they were entirely unintentional, but are most welcome.

Firstly, because I don’t need to draw any cash out of the startup I can use profits to begin paying other people to help me. I have someone running ops, sales, and marketing. I can afford to pay them out of profits.

Secondly, because we're paying them out of profits, I don't need to raise significant capital to pay people. It’s sustainable.

Lastly, I have other people managing my startup, which means it’s not 100% reliant on me. Anyone who’s ever run a growing business knows how hard it is to transition a business from yourself to someone else. I’ve got the benefit of starting it like that.

The way Rocking Connect has grown and evolved was completely unexpected, I can't take credit for it. I know it goes against the normal models for how startups are started, grown and managed, but this works for me.

And that’s probably the most important lesson I've learnt. Don't get hung up on how others have done it. Figure out what works for you, and make it work for your situation.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment or recommend it. Thanks!

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