In 2008 Patrick McGinnis was working on Wall Street at AIG, climbing the ladder, doing everything he was “supposed” to do. Then, in the depths of the Great Recession, the company received a government bailout, his group was put up for sale, and the AIG bonus scandal hit the headlines. All of a sudden, everything McGinnis worked for was tainted by the letters A, I and G across the top of his résumé.
So he diversified—his life, that is.
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He started some small investments that grew and grew alongside a new philosophy he explained in his book, The 10% Entrepreneur: Live Your Startup Dream Without Quitting Your Day Job. We asked McGinnis how to dip a toe in the water of business ownership.
Most people think of entrepreneurship as an all-or-nothing proposition. Why is that untrue?
The falling price of technology coupled with widespread connectivity has clear implications for anyone who has dreamed of doing something entrepreneurial. I’d argue that it’s never been cheaper and easier to start and manage a business, technology-focused or otherwise. You need little more than a laptop, an internet connection and a smartphone to run the day-to-day operations of a small business. This has also made it possible to run a business part time, on the side, while keeping your day job. You can be entrepreneurial, customizing your engagement to your life, your resources, and your interests and passions.
For someone looking to make the leap into entrepreneurship, why might 10 percent be better than 100 percent?
Starting an entrepreneurial venture on the side helps you mitigate some of the biggest challenges of full-time entrepreneurship. You can test ideas, try out business models, and fail without having to worry about paying the bills. By starting something on the side and making sure it works before going all-in you give yourself the runway to get things right. Basically, you de-risk the model before you go all-in.
What should people plan for before taking that 10 percent leap?
The biggest downfall versus full-time entrepreneurship is—given that you are dedicating only a portion of your time to your side venture—you will move more slowly than if you were working full time. That is a reality. But here’s the other reality: The typical startup takes seven years from founding to exit. Despite the legends and the myths, there are really very few overnight successes out there. Thus, adding months or even a few years to the timeline of a venture in order to de-risk the process of building it is a reasonable trade-off.
How do you manage this without upsetting your everyday boss?
One cardinal rule of the 10% Entrepreneur is that your day job must come first. After all, it is your day job that allows you to build your 10 percent. You must act with complete integrity at all times with respect to the division between your day job and your side gig. Blurring this line is far more prevalent than you can ever imagine. In fact, at a time when over 30 percent of Americans have side hustles this is not at all an uncommon concept.
Are there types of entrepreneurship that are better suited for this toe-in-the-water approach than others?
I’ve seen 10% Entrepreneurs in all kinds of industries. Investing in real estate, technology, restaurants, fashion, old-economy companies, etc. That said, the best ventures are the kind where you can build them incrementally and where you do not need to deploy a significant amount of capital up front. Additionally, you will be most effective when you can leverage technology (everything from your smartphone to social media) in order to make things happen. Asset-intensive industries that require you to raise external capital are not as well suited to 10% Entrepreneurs.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.