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Every entrepreneur daydreams about walking into their boss’s office to proclaim: “I quit!”—and then loudly declaring “Freedom!” a la WIlliam Wallace in Braveheart.
However—If you recall—this also involves the part where you get ceremoniously beheaded which (let’s face it) kinda-sorta ruins the whole celebration.
Before you quit your job and get all pumped to be the Founder of a new startup that writes checks instead of cashing them—let me give you a few things to think about.
Everyone talks about how much “runway” your startup has, which is a not-so-fancy term for how much longer you can stay in business before going broke. But, no one ever seems to talk about how much runway YOU have personally.
Startups don’t fail when the Company runs out of money. Startups fail when the Founder runs out of money.
If you were infinitely rich (or lived with your parents, which has the same effect) you could continue to work on your startup forever—even if it was just you. It may not be the ideal situation, but realistically you could keep your feet moving.
The ability to keep the Founders moving while the business takes longer to develop is critical. It’s why so many entrepreneurs start in college, when they don’t have to worry about other bills. They have the freedom to expand, contract, and expand again without having to worry about whether they will have a bed to sleep in.
Your personal runway means everything. The moment you cut off the oxygen supply to that lifeline, you’re in serious trouble.
The other effect of cutting off that lifeline is the amount of vulnerability it creates. The first 24 months of a startup leave the Founders in an incredibly vulnerable position. It’s why they get loaded up in personal debt, take horrible terms from investors, and go into a fight-or-flight desperation mode.
All of this leads to really bad decisions. The moment you compound that vulnerability in your business by also being vulnerable in your personal financial life—It gets a thousand times worse.
While holding onto your active income could hold you back from more time that you would want to put into the business—It’ll also protect you while making some of the most critical early stage decisions of your company.
Keeping your personal coffers full is not just a hedge against failure—it’s a financing strategy that ensures your startup has the longevity it needs to develop.
Instead of thinking of how quickly you can quit your job, think about how long you can keep your job and push your startup forward. At some point you’ll need to jump ship (we’ll talk about that later). But, for now, just make sure your number one priority is making sure you’ve got food and shelter for the long Winter.
Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.