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Preparing to launch your start-up while still employed?

When the entrepreneurship bug bites, it‘s hard to think of anything else. All you can think of is your new business and how you‘re going to be the next success story.

November 26, 2012 / 01:30 PM IST

Gargi Banerjee

When the entrepreneurship bug bites, it’s hard to think of anything else. All you can think of is your new business and how you’re going to be the next success story. Plans take shape in your mind and you’re already charting a plan to give your start-up wings.

But here’s a reality check – you’re still employed and you’re required to give of your best to your current employer. This is a tough place to be in. And if you’re proposed venture is in the same business space as the company you’re working for, you’re beset with guilt – are you cheating on your own company?
But the bills don’t get paid automatically, do they? And you can’t just up and out since you have to work through a notice period. So why don’t you make the best use of your resources while you are still employed? We are certainly not suggesting that you transgress the law and steal intellectual property. But there are smart ways to leverage your position so that you’re prepared for take-off.

Build a potential client base

Even budding entrepreneurs know that client acquisition is the key to any business. If your current job and you’re proposed venture share the same space, make a note of the contact details of key clients or ‘decision-makers’ who are key to your employer. Keep a close eye on client acquisition techniques and learn the ropes.

You also need to keep tabs on when contracts come up for renewal and look for a chance to present your company's offerings and cite what business opportunities you can bring to the table. In this case, make sure you do not infringe any competition clause that may be in your contract. In fact, read your contract, cover-to-cover, so that you don’t end up in a soup later. If your venture is in an altogether different space, things become much simpler and you can even consider your employer as a potential client in future!

Make a back-up of your e-mail

Regardless of whether or not you’re going to be in the same business space as your employer, make a copy of all work-related emails. You can bet they will come in handy at some point, when you, say, need to get in touch with someone who could be the perfect solution to a problem. So back-up your emails in a personal folder that you can transfer to a pen drive when necessary.
Enhance your social media network

While you’re on the job, make the most of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with people who could be useful contacts later. If you’re actually handling clients for your employer, you can take the first step and befriend some key individuals on these platforms. People are much less formal when it comes to social media networking and have instant recall of your social media presence. While befriending colleagues and potential clients, it is also important to maintain decorum on these platforms. Remember, getting too informal or flippant does not augur well for your image as an entrepreneur.

Keep in touch with your colleagues

Let’s face it. You may begin your venture as a one-man team but there will come a time when you need other people to run certain aspects of your business. Maintain a good rapport with your colleagues and give some thought to who among them could be a perfect fit in your business. It could be a whiz kid web developer or a star salesperson who could literally sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo! If you stay in touch with your colleagues, they might be willing to work for you or take up freelance assignments if you can’t afford to hire them right away. However, make sure you’re not breaching any employee contract or poaching from your current employer. Doing that while still on your company’s rolls is plain unethical.

Do not burn bridges

Last, but not least, do not do anything on the sly. When you’re ready to quit your current employment, come clean with your employers. If you have given 100 per cent to your job and proved to be a good hand at work, your employer will appreciate your honesty even if you’re going to be in the same business. People who have been running businesses for a while are aware that a start-up is not formidable competition from day one. If you part on a cordial note, your employers will be receptive and may even give you a tip or two that you will find handy!

But you also need to be wary. So refrain from sharing the specifics your business plan with your bosses and colleagues. Be patient and take one step at a time and, soon enough, you will be ready to launch your dream venture.

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