Don't Quit Your Day Job to Start Something New

Take the Part-Time Path to Full-Time Success

By Published on .

Brian Martin
Brian Martin
In 1999, while working as a brand manager for a leading consumer-package-goods manufacturer, I decided to start a small media and marketing company called Brand Connections.

I kept my day job and started the company part time. And for two years, that's just how I ran it. I waited until I had enough experience and enough revenue to quit and pursue my business full time.

Nine years later, my start-up has grown to become one of the largest companies in its space. Moreover, I've sold it twice for more than $225 million.

This story is not unique. For people who want to start their own successful companies, the part-time path to full-time success has become an increasingly common business strategy. In fact, based on my own experience and that of other entrepreneurs, I've come to believe that starting part time carries major advantages.

A majority of the marketing and media executives I spoke to for this piece said they would one day like to own a successful business, yet they went on to say that "someday" is not today. Why not?

First, they cannot leave their employers because they depend upon their salaries. Second, leaving would mean forfeiting two types of equity: financial equity in the form of bonuses and options, and psychological equity in the form of the goodwill built up between employee and management. And third, they don't believe they have a good enough business idea.

Brian Martin is founder-CEO of Brand Connections, a specialty media and marketing company.
While these reasons are all reasonable, they pose a problem: The first two make it impossible to overcome the third. But you can eliminate the first two by realizing that you do not have to quit your day job. You can begin nurturing that "good-enough" business idea now by starting to work on it part time.

The moment you accept that starting a business part time is a practical option, your eyes will open to opportunities unseen up to this point. You will start asking yourself, "What new things can I learn today?" "What service do I wish was available for my brand that I could use in a turnkey fashion?" "Who are some of the smartest people in my company and how can I deepen my relationships with them?" These questions will enable you to see real and present opportunities you have not previously noticed.

Why will your part-time business succeed when so many fail? Because you have taken advantage of the benefits of your day job.

Unrivaled access
I'm not advocating that you work on your new, small business on company time. I ran my business part time before 8 a.m., after 7 p.m. and on weekends. But the simple fact is that you enjoy a level of access that outsiders do not.

Every day, you function in an environment of information and ideas unavailable to outsiders. Your company is an umbilical cord to breakthrough ideas. You are being exposed to presentations, research and suppliers. You are observing the way senior management thinks and how other brands and clients function. Access to this information gives a budding entrepreneur a significant advantage over others when it comes to developing a product or service that will fulfill an unmet market need.

And your work milieu lets you test ideas risk-free. As ideas come to you, your colleagues serve as a built-in focus group. What would you think if someone approached you with this idea? What do you like? Don't like? With your original ideas shaped by colleague feedback, you can now refine them.

Remember: Companies like mine are always looking for useful and exciting new marketing tools to invest in, and those ideas are coming from people like you.

That's why the smartest pathway to small-business success in our industry is to keep your day job and start part time. It might mean working nights and weekends for a while. But ultimately you'll find that your part-time business can be your key to full-time success.
In this article: