In the early days of NYC CNC (and long before Saunders Machine Works), I was trying to start my first entrepreneurial venture, Strikemark. We were developing an automatic-reset rifle target and had hired an engineer to help us design the target.
While the early prototypes were successful, the product development costs became prohibitive. I knew that success would require more in-house knowledge and manufacturing ability. That lead to buying a Tormach 1100 (a big step up from the TAIG mill I kept in my NYC apartment) to bring prototyping and R&D in-house.
That machine became the workhorse for Strikemark and eventually a production machine for our GoPro picatinny rail mounts – my first commercial success in manufacturing. It was from this growth running a Tormach in my garage that I needed to think about quitting my day job, so here are my tips and recommendations for machinists and manufacturing entrepreneurs looking to grow their business full time.
While it may sound counterintuitive, the number one piece of advice I can give is this: do not quit your day job until you can’t afford not to. Do absolutely everything you can to grow your business while still bringing in the relatively stable and safe income of your day job.
The first time I tried to quit my job to pursue Strikemark full-time I was told to keep doing what I was doing - just do a better job of doing it on the side. Until the time that you are losing by working your day job becomes more valuable than your pay at that job, it’s best to keep hustling and growing on nights and weekends.
Have access to capital
The number one reason for startups failing is a lack of cash flow. Growth eats cash for breakfast, and you need to consider two things when trying to grow your business: how much money you have and how much money you bring in? You need to be sure that your venture can be supported either by personal savings or the business income itself before giving up a safer, more constant salary from a day job.
Avoid starting a business to escape your day job
Starting a business is not easy. While going off on your own to start a business venture sounds great to those of us with an entrepreneurial mindset, it also takes time and effort – lots of it. Starting a business out of spite for a job you are not happy at can lead to just as much burn-out, stress, and dissatisfaction as the job you had in the first place.
My advice? Wait until you find something you are truly passionate about, focus on building that idea into a business, and do not quit the 9-5 until you’re ready to make the jump. Hating your day job has nothing to do with the likelihood of success, but it does often cloud your judgement.
Realize that growing a business takes time
My preferred method of starting a business is to use time instead of money to grow the operation. That’s not to say that it won’t take money, just that trying to accelerate growth will take more money. Realizing that it is going to take some time before you are ready to quit the day job is critical, especially if you’re a bootstrapper who doesn’t have a ton of expendable income to pour into the business right away.
Avoid advice from family, friends, and those not in industry
Asking the wrong people for advice or opinions can create a false sense of security. When looking for feedback about any aspect of your business, avoid seeking out biased opinions from family, friends, and loved ones. Those who have no personal or emotional stake in your decision will be the best sources of feedback – just be prepared to take criticism seriously but not personally.
Perfect timing doesn’t exist
There’s no perfect time to quit your day job! There will always be some amount of risk associated – the key here is evaluating that risk, comparing it to where your business is at currently, and deciding if giving up the safety net of your day job is really going to be worth it.
I’m not the kind of person to risk it all and throw it all into the wind. I am much more interested in the slow, steady, sustainable growth and lower associated risk that we’ve seen over the years at Saunders Machine Works.
This blog was guest written by John Saunders of NYC CNC and Saunders Machine Works.