How I launched a successful start-up while juggling a full-time job
Robert Aldous made sure to keep his manager on side when he launched his sports kit business. Find out how he balances his start-up venture with his career…
Name: Robert Aldous
Company: KitBrix Ltd
Started in: 2014
Company description: KitBrix is the ultimate modular, durable and functional sports kit organiser. Intelligently designed, military inspired and tailor made this easy grab organiser maximises training time and reduces the stress of training, kit storage and event day planning. Our product will support you at home, in the gym, and in vehicles, for both training and race day.
Describe your start-up barrier
In times of relative austerity, I couldn't afford to jump straight in with my business idea. I knew that I would not be able to pay myself until the first few months of 2015 and getting to that point was going to require me to work double the amount of hours to get the idea off the ground quickly. Plus I knew nothing about retail, product development and had no strategic direction of where and how to launch the product.
What steps did you take to juggle your career with starting a business?
I am now successfully commencing the transition from a company I work for, to a company I own and run. All parties know the current state of play and that has given me the confidence and reassurance that I managed this process to the best of my abilities and conducted my actions with up most respect for all those involved. These are the following steps I took:
1. I established working hours for both businesses. Without establishing a clear plan and separate working hours my mind and my focus drifts and blurs and this makes me unproductive, stressed and confused. I tried the whole ‘two laptop' thing, working at lunch etc. but it didn’t work for me. I needed clear separation. Apart from my smart phone, where I have access to all email and all diaries, I keep my day job to Monday to Friday 9-5, and my company 7-8am, 6-10pm and Sundays.
2. I created an overarching timeline. Although I didn’t know enough to make accurate assumptions on timeline, I created key milestones to keep myself sane! This would help me plan my life, ensure I don’t lose too many of my friends and ensure I can maintain progression in the company.
3. I was honest with my manager in my full time job. I was quite nervous about telling anyone within my day job about what I was trying to do as the natural reaction is to think it will interfere and, to be honest, if you don’t get your working hours right then it will! There is no need, unless you are contractually obligated, to put the cat amongst the pigeons too early as the idea may fade, be untenable or may just not work. I wanted to get the timing right, inform the right people at the right time and inform the CEO first (if you have a short enough management structure then I would recommend you do the same) as they will understand ambition, self-improvement and get the fact that being ‘entrepreneurial' and driven can be a benefit to all. My CEO was understanding because I was delivering at work and asked me to just inform him if it gets too much or the lines begin to blur; a reasonable request .
4. I kept a day off. Working all the time is tiring but fun. I love being in the mix and in the fast paced environment that start-ups provide; ensuring that I keep the plates spinning. However, it was important to take time off and also to make sure I didn’t take MORE time off than I needed. A big night out meant a day-and-a-half off and that was a waste of my time and my companies' time.
5. I kept time for training and personal development. I signed up for a number of short evening courses from financial management to digital marketing. This was like therapy as it helped me forget about both roles and focus on pure theory and practice allowing me to implement these new skills in both roles. To an extent my job and new company had certain parallels, they are both sales focused and therefore my courses served two purposes and benefited all. The training part was harder but the benefit of having my own product was that I had all my kit ready in the car, if I had a free hour and was passing a gym, I jumped in worked out and got back on the road.
What three key questions should other people ask themselves before starting a business while working full-time?
1. What type of person are you? I would ask you to think about what type of person you are, honestly. Knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are is key but knowing what you should and shouldn’t be doing is even more important.
2. How much time do you have to focus on starting the new company? This is a good alternative to ‘what are your priorities?' When asked about your priorities, we often say what we think we should say. When asking what you would be willing to give up to focus on the company, only then do you realise what your priorities are.
3. What does success look like? Trying to understand the ‘why' is something that drives me as I don’t have an answer to this question either. I want to enjoy the journey. Of course I aspire to being materially sound as money is an enabler, but the real reason is yet unknown to me!
What one piece of advice do you think they should take on board?
Get your financial processes in order from day one. You won’t regret it!
Is there anything you would do differently?
I would have got a desk spike and put all my receipts on it from day one – all in order – all accounted for – simple.