I left my job in financial consulting at the end of last year to start Spectre & Co., an online menswear and shirting retailer. Naturally, the first thing I did was Google “How To Launch A Startup.” I discovered that there are countless articles out there on the technical and legal prerequisites of establishing a startup, and they all pretty much convey the same wisdom: incorporate your company, choose the appropriate legal structure, register a DBA, analyze your market, and so forth.
It’s all pretty solid advice. But from my experience, running your own startup is much more than getting the technical details right, it’s a state of mind and attitude. It’s also a shift in lifestyle that everyone with a job or career can benefit from, not just startup hopefuls. Whether you have a stable career or have just made the leap into entrepreneurship, here are some tips that can positively impact your life, your job, or your startup:
Complacency Is Your Enemy
Don’t stand in your own way. Complacency is something we’re all guilty of at some point, myself included. Unless you’re absolutely head-over-heels in love with your career, the luster of a new job fades quickly, and that shining enthusiasm to be the hardest worker in the office is not always sustainable. Eventually, complacency sets in and your ambitions, work-related or otherwise, take a backseat. With a roof over your head, a stable job, food on the table, a significant other, and friends, it’s incredibly easy for your passion to get pushed further and further toward the edge of your mind’s periphery. It’s a terrible, crippling habit, and it’s one that is surprisingly easy to fall into. Which brings us to the best way to fight this problem…
Keep Your Hobbies Alive And Cultivate New Ones
You’d be shocked at how many of us millenials don’t have any real hobbies. In my opinion, technology and the internet are partially to blame. In the age of instant gratification, with infinite amounts of entertainment at our fingertips whenever and wherever we want it, it’s easy to see why it’s become harder and harder to cultivate real skills or hobbies. So take some time and evaluate what your interests are and learn more about them. If you want to start your own business, this is where spark and drive are born, and even if you don’t, it’ll snap you out of daily tedium. To have something to look forward to outside of work other than happy hour and syndicated reruns of House on USA will do wonders for your energy levels and your general happiness.
In addition, take a more proactive role in your interests. Intrigued by fashion? Instead of scrolling through the pages of The Sartorialist on your computer every day, mingle with industry professionals at the Independent Fashion Bloggers Convention. Like art? Instead of obsessing over your Pinterest board, take a drawing or screenprinting class. It’s surprising how much livelier your lifestyle can get if you just disconnect that tether to your computer screen once in awhile.
Also, don’t be afraid to try your hand at more than one thing: the more skills you learn, the more well-rounded and interesting you yourself become. You’ll also never know when those new skills you learn will come in handy. When starting Spectre & Co., my past experiences with graphic design, photography, typography, and printmaking have all seen enormous amounts of utility in the foundation of the startup, and has saved me time, energy, and not to mention a boatload of money. I’ve been able to design our online storefront, design the layouts for packaging and labels for our merchandise, and shoot our product photography myself, all things that would have required freelance or hired help otherwise.
Now, I’m not in any way guaranteeing that everyone’s interests will magically align together, but I do know that one thing is for sure: if I didn’t actively pursue them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Have A Written Plan
Take the time to put a plan in writing. Some of you might be thinking, “I have a career, and I’m not looking to start my own business, what do I need a business plan for?” It doesn’t matter. While you may not be calculating breakeven points or projected cashflows, you should put in writing what your expectations are for your career and your future.
Ask yourself, realistically, where you see yourself five years down the line, or even ten years down the line. Is your current career path conducive to you achieving your goals, does your workplace foster an environment that gives you opportunities for advancement? It may sound cheesy, but repeatedly use the phrases “I want to be” and “I see myself” in your plan as positive reinforcement. Contemplation is fleeting, but having something in writing will give you a sense of direction and clarity that will more easily call you to action.
Now, if you’re starting your own business, a written proposal is not only a good idea, but pretty much mandatory. If you’re thinking about VC funding, partnerships, or third party involvement, the one thing they all have in common is that they’ll want to see your business plan up front. It’s the one document that succinctly summarizes your new venture: what your business does, where your competitive advantage lies, who your demographic is, when you expect to be profitable, and how much funding you’ll need. And you thought that you’d never have to write another paper after college again! A solid business plan lays the foundation and outlines your goals for your startup, and hopefully conveys to others that you’re serious.
The three points above can easily be summarized as: be proactive! Break the cycle of complacency, take on an active pursuit of your interests, and have clear goals and plans in mind and in writing. It’s a philosophy that anyone can follow, not just entrepreneurs. Create a strategic plan for your life, and act with both agency and urgency; it’ll make for a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lifestyle.