There you are: Standing at the edge of the metaphorical startup cliff. You want to cannonball into the abyss that is Founder-hood… But, you’re scared as hell that you might be jumping in too soon.
What do you do?
Are you asking yourself the right questions? How do you evaluate whether this very moment is the one to take the plunge? Are you sure?
Every startup Founder goes through this inner battle, yet few know what to look for.
While everyone’s situation is unique in their own way, there are three critical indicators that can help you determine if the timing is right— before making the leap.
The moment you start seeing real revenue from a consistent stream of customers, it’s time to consider a bigger commitment.
The operative parts of that suggestion are:
In the early days, it’s hard to tell the difference between a blip and a trend in your sales numbers. You may have had some good press, or a really fortunate week on sales —but, next month, you might slump hard.
The most prudent move is to try to see if you can replicate at least two months in a row — ideally more.
Forcing yourself to replicate that trend is the very essence of what it will take to keep your startup moving forward—so it’s exactly the right focus.
At some point, it may become obvious that you’re actually losing money by not being available all the time.
You may have signed customer contracts that you’re required to fulfill, or need to develop a product feature that will increase sales.
The list goes on.
The difference, however, is whether or not you can actually be sure that your lack of commitment leads to a clear lack of income. This gets a bit fuzzy when you start making assumptions like:
“If I worked on this more, it might yield more income.”
That may in fact be true, but it’s not the same as literally leaving money on the table.
If you’re leaving a meaningful amount of money on the table — it’s probably time to jump ship.
It’s easy to get lured into going “all in” because there’s just so much to do. If you could only devote more time to working on your social media campaign / writing more code / making more customer calls / etc.
Then — Things would be moving so much faster!
All of that is true (and it will always be true) but, you can’t use that as the single indicator that it’s a good idea to go “all in”.
What you’re reacting to is a constant within startup culture. There will always be a mountain of work in front of you no matter how many resources you add. You’re just reacting to the first of many resource issues.
Yes, you would definitely move the business forward faster if you were more committed. But, before you make that commitment, be sure that the other indicators are clearly blinking “green”. Because this one, frankly, will be forever red.
The best possible outcome would be for you to focus on driving real revenue before making a real commitment.
But, sometimes, that’s just not possible.
Millions of Founders before you have made the leap without knowing if there was a paycheck in it. I guarantee none of them were excited about the prospect of not being paid.
The decision is yours, but if you can hold strong and focus on building a real income-producing business before making the leap, then you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you make your transition.
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.