How to Efficiently Start a Part-Time Startup?
Every start-up wants to dedicate the whole day to the project from day one, but just as it happened with us, this is not always a viable option.
However, not having that possibility doesn’t mean that we don’t have the chance of making our idea a reality.
For sure we won’t be executing everything as fast as possible, but in general speed isn’t the most important item during the first steps of a start-up; what is really important is the quality of the solution we are giving to our future clients, that is to say, the one that effectively solves a concrete and real problem for the one they are willing to pay.
Six years ago we started our startup as part-time while we were working for another enterprise generating incomes to earn a living and based on that concrete experience we want to share what we’ve learned along the way:
Part-time doesn’t mean working on your free time
If we want to be successful with this work methodology, it’s essential to understand the meaning of part-time. First we need to define what part-time IS NOT: it doesn’t mean dedicating to our new business during those moments in which we don’t have any other activity, and consequently we can choose between watching TV or working on our project.
The real meaning of part-time must be to understand that during the same day we must work on two different activities. When we work as an employee we have fixed timetables, so we must also define fixed timetables for our work as entrepreneurs during which to develop. There’s no other viable option.
For example, both my partner and I used to work from 9 a. m. till 6 p. m. developing software for IBM and HP respectively. That timetable was fixed, but so was our work as entrepreneurs for MejorTrato. For two years, the timetable for part-time development started at 8 p. m. until 11 p. m. from Monday to Friday and from 10 a. m. to 2 p. m. on Saturdays.
Working like this has the advantage that founders and co-founders will have a specific dedicated and shared period of time during which they can contact via chat and/or call in Skype for any consult, doubt, suggestion, concern, or critic. In this way, we know we will get an answer in due time and manner since each one is working from their houses on that same moment, devoting their whole attention to the startup.
Dividing responsibilities and objectives
Once we have settled the work timetable for our start-up, it’s time to assign responsibilities. We must divide the tasks that have to be performed with efficiency so that we advance progressively day after day. The worst is having two founders do the same tasks.
For example, in our case, my partner was the one in charge of the complete online platform programming while I had the responsibility of learning from scratch and applying online marketing, client/supplier development and implementing the legal and accounting sector.
The fact that we didn’t have activities in common is something that may not initially look important, but I can guarantee that it was a strong pillar to be able to make huge advancements in little time.
Not having to constantly communicate about advancements has the advantage of avoiding bothering the other frequently and eliminating interruptions (particularly meetings). This allows the person who is developing to count on 3 or 4 consecutive hours of development in which real progress can be seen.
Dividing responsibilities in an startup makes us work with the highest efficiency possible during the time we devote to part-time work since these responsibilities come hand in hand with objectives, for which we don’t need any boss to be constantly controlling, bothering or interrupting in order to check the progress of our work.
Focus on the client
I personally consider this to be the most important item and perhaps the only advantage of those entrepreneurs who start as part-time. And this is the opportunity to dedicate hours, days, weeks and months to know our clients better.
We don’t have the urgent necessity to demonstrate immediate results as those startup with seed, angel or venture capital.
This doesn’t mean that we can waste time and meaninglessly invest it in activities that don’t have priority. What I want to express is that in order to be more efficient in what we daily program and develop we have to listen to our clients. No one knows better what potential clients may need more than themselves.
When focusing on the client we generate a system of iteration in which we first program our system as simple as possible with what we “think” the client wants and needs. After 2 months working on the prototype, we start gathering with potential clients so that they can test our software in front of us with their own hands.
After this initial stage, each time we developed something new, we got together again with our future clients so that they could effectively tell us their opinion about two items: Does this tool and improvement work for them? What else would be useful for their day to day life that would really solve a problem that is a constant headache today?
Focusing on our clients and solving a real world problem has given us excellent advantages in a step by step organic growth. During such process I remember doing very few meaningless things which we shouldn’t have, since everything we implemented was justified on constant repetition of several clients which at the same time showed that such functionality was common to all of them and that solving it was essential.
Important: don’t do every thing just because a client asks for it, because in that case we would be doing a consultancy, a service that is not scalable in the long term. Furthermore, we will end up with a product with millions of functions which is not only difficult to maintain at programming level, but also that the client won’t easily and intuitively understand.