Keep your employer on your side when starting up

When you're starting a business, it's unlikely that you'll be able to quit your job and start working on your idea full-time right at the beginning. More and more startups than ever before are balancing employment and running a startup, either with a view to taking it full-time one day or as a side project that enables them to make money from their passion. However, how would your boss feel about this?

We did a survey on entrepreneurs who started up whilst still in employment, and it was sobering to find that 51% of the founders surveyed hadn't told their boss about their business venture. When many contracts stipulate that you can't work for someone else (including yourself) outside of your day job, and people no longer have the same job for life, this reluctance to put yourself in what could be a difficult position is unsurprising. However, getting your boss on your side can be a win-win situation. They benefit from an employee who's happy, fulfilled, and who feels secure and supported - not to mention the skills, transferable and otherwise, that you'd bring to the table for your day job. And you get to work on your business with that added security.

There are a few ground rules to lay when approaching the subject with your boss. Be as open as you can and address any of your employers' concerns. For example, if they're worried that your focus will be elsewhere, or that you're about to up sticks, reassure them - and repay their trust by making doubly sure that you stick to your promises and work commitments. Go in with a positive attitude and put the emphasis on the benefits that this venture will have for your day job - will it teach you better time-management? Does it focus on a skill you use in your job anyway?

We asked entrepreneur Gavin Healy about his experience getting his boss on his side. Gavin is the executive chef at leading Mexican restaurant group Wahaca, and also the co-founder of A&G Chocolatl -  they create a luxurious and traditional pure hot chocolate straight from the cacao bean. Here's his experience.

When did you tell your employer about your business venture?

I told him as soon as possible - for my situation it was best to be totally open and honest. Basically his fears were:

1. It would work and I would leave.

2. I wouldn't be able to spend as much time on my job, and therefore work would suffer.

I made it clear that neither would happen, I explained how I would do that, and thankfully he agreed. He does keep tabs on me, and at every point I'm open and honest.

Does your job complement your own business, and how?

I have supplier and customers contacts I use for both the job and the business. Each contact knows the score. We also supply Wahaca, which helps!

Is your employer happy with you doing both? Did you have to do anything to reassure them?

In fact he is rather proud that me and my wife are doing this! I did reassure him in terms of a little presentation of the business plan, and I give him regular updates of what's new with the business.

What are your tips for keeping your employer on your side?

Be honest. Your employer will have real concerns, but if you can reassure them then they have a brilliant opportunity to be proud of one of the team.

Are you open about your future plans for the business with your employer?


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