Should you stay or should you go? This is a question many aspiring entrepreneurs ponder as they are building their startup dream on the side while working a full-time job. It can be a tricky time, as many people need a stable income but also want to focus more time on their entrepreneurial endeavor. So when someone is finally able to quit their 9-to-5 job to pursue their passion, some founders never look back. I recommend taking caution before straying too far from your roots.
Quite often, an entrepreneur's pursuit stems from an area she is an expert in -- a field she has been working in for some time. So why someone would choose to throw away valuable resources established during the course of her career is anyone's guess.
For 10 years, I practiced (and still do) as a registered dental hygienist treating patients. But that was only half the story. In that position, it also became clear that there was a significant need for an online portal focused on connecting dental professionals. I decided to launch DentalPost to fill that void. Because the platform grew so quickly, I began working less and less in the office to dedicate more attention it. Eventually, I made the conscious decision to don my hygienist coat and return to the dental office once a week, shifting my focus from the tech world back to my physical practice and patients.
Staying true to your industry’s roots can return great value to a niche entrepreneurial business.
Here are a few tips to consider:
Keep more than a foot in the industry door. Nothing substitutes in-person networking and putting live, smiling faces to names. As an entrepreneur you are your brand, the physical representation of your product or service. As you network with others in your field, talk about your business in the context of your physical job. This reinforces credibility and shows you practice what you profess.
Remember real world means real-time marketing research. We can all learn more about trends and pain points in our industry by standing at coffee pots than by reading comment boxes on your website or social-media pages. Office work allows you to see firsthand the customer side, the employee side and provider side of things. By keeping yourself entrenched in the industry, you are right there among other professionals and constantly hear stories and feedback about “inside” issues and trends. This makes your niche business better. You are able to understand the needs of its players -- who also happen to be your users.
Seek continual inspiration. Consider where you can find inspiration to take your idea to the next level,or reaffirm your commitment to serving your target audience. I originally fell in love with the dental industry because of the personal connections I foster with my patients. I establish relationships, offer comfort and, in some cases, even help save lives.
Keeping yourself involved in your industry (once a week or a few times a month) and staying true to your entrepreneurial roots keeps you connected. With this grounding, you will never lose sight of why you built your venture in the first place.