Thinking about starting a business? Try moonlighting first. I’m not talking about watching episodes of the 80’s sitcom with Cybil Shephard … I’m referring to working part-time, either after hours or weekends in the field or industry of the business that you want to start. Doing this will help you gain valuable experience and insight that will absolutely improve your chances of launching a successful business (all while maintaining your day job). Whether it’s a product or service, you can start building your reputation and knowledge of that space. Not only that, you’ll be able to figure out if this business really is something that you want to start.
Plenty of would-be entrepreneurs come to me for guidance about how to turn their good ideas into new businesses. Generally, these ideas are in areas completely unrelated to what they’re currently doing. For example, a guy I knew wanted to open a wine & cheese shop, with the first location in New York, plans to expand into other cities. He both loved and knew a great deal about wine. “Great,” I said (I was of course excited at the prospect of a hip wine lounge in my neighborhood). “Now, what experience do you have actually running or managing a wine bar?” Having worked on Wall Street, he didn’t have any. I suggested that he take 6 months to work in a wine bar, learning the ins and outs of operating this type of establishment. The knowledge gained and the connections made will make his transition from Wall Street to wine bar significantly smoother.
No matter what industry your idea will revolutionize, get some first-hand experience before you do anything else. While it’s possible to create a successful business without moonlighting, the learning curve will be that much steeper. If you look before you leap, you’ll be far more likely to land on your feet.