I heard a quote once that has stuck with me:
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step.”
What they don’t tell you though is how hard and long that first step really is. You have some people who can take that step with confidence and determination, like Rich who founded Paperclip. Then you have those who just never follow through on their ideas or dreams, who kick themselves when they see their idea being advertised somewhere. Finally, there is me, who is smack in the middle. It took me 2 years of little painful shuffles to finally take that first step.
When Rich first told me about the idea of Paperclip I was in my second year of my graduate scheme, trying to blag my way through being a management consultant (only skill you need when being a consultant). At this time Rich had built up a team of around 6 people following a successful Google Start up pitch, my only role at this point was a friendly advisory position. Over this advisory time most of my recommendations were to get rid of the others (apart from Ziad who is our other legendary co-founder) in a true consultancy fashion. This resulted in the team being severely depleted so I started to help out on more of the BAU ‘Business as usual’ tasks (can’t shift the consultancy lingo) but unlike Rich I was having to do this whilst also trying to smash my grad scheme.
Sorry for that random spiel, I’m finally getting to the point of this blog which is to talk about how I managed to juggle my day job and Paperclip commitments before I took the big step. The truth is, it wasn’t actually as hard as you might think but that’s because of a few key points which helped massively:
- I had a great employer
Most management consultancy are cold, ruthless environments who drain every last bit of energy out of you, resulting in you never having a chance to pursue outside ideas (I have nothing to base this on but sounds good for the story).
This is where I was lucky because although the management consultancy I worked for is one of the biggest companies in the UK (a FTSE 250 company) it prides itself on promoting a strong work life balance. This meant 90% of the time I would be finished work by 6, which gave me time to work in the evening. I’d also sometimes use the train in the morning to do work but in reality id be asleep 5 mins into my journey.
Working in Google Campus after a long day at work
I was also open with my line manager who knew about Paperclip and embraced it provided that it didn’t impact my day job and that I only worked on it in my own time. Interesting point here, if you do any external work on company property, they can claim IP rights over it.
- I have great/patient co-founders
Everyone hates that person who doesn’t pull their weight and at times that was me - sometimes my actual job took priority!
Zee and Rich having a wet t-shirt comp at the Xmas party
It must have driven Rich and Zee crazy as they were both full time. However, they were very understanding and accepted that I had a day job as well. It’s always difficult when you have a mix of part time and full time founders but we managed to make it work, which is down to Rich and Zee’s flexibility.
My advice here is to just be honest with your co-founders, it is better to say you have no time to do something then to try and do it half-arsed whilst half asleep.
- I bought extra holiday
Another perk of my job was that I could buy up to 15 days a year holiday, which would leave me with 40 days a year, which is basically 3 months. This was needed for those times when after work or weekend work wouldn’t be enough such as the time I was on TV and the radio (yeah I’ve done both... baller!).
- I made time for myself
You always read something like this in advice articles and I use to hate it and think ‘what a load of bullsh#t’ but it’s so true!
We have all had those days at work where everything has gone wrong and all you want to do is crawl into bed and die. Now, imagine having to go home after that day to grind out 3-4 hours of work, which you don’t even get paid for! It does take its toll on you and you start to lose motivation, which is when it can all spiral out of control.
Luckily, this rarely happened to me, which I think is due to being a very chilled-out person and because I would always make sure I had time away from Paperclip and work. Throughout the 2 years I made sure that I still played football, went to the gym, played golf, saw friends/family, and had holidays. The last thing I wanted to do was to resent working either on my day job or Paperclip, the distractions helped me re-focus and continue with determination.
- I outsourced work
I read a lot about co-founders wanting to be involved in every aspect of work… seriously? You need to chill out, it’s not healthy!
We all have our roles in the company and if you hire people or companies its because they are good at what they do and you need to trust them. We outsourced all of our development and elements of our marketing and user acquisition campaigns. We had full control of the direction and process but rather than babysitting them through every task we would let them get on with it, which freed up our time to do other things, like my actual day job.
Our Swansea Interns
I’m not saying the all-seeing all-doing founder approach is wrong but you need to find the right balance that fits your circumstance.
Well, there you have it, my first blog and piece of advice I have ever given. The main point which is probably hidden in the waffle of a blog and terrible grammar is that you don’t have to be an all or nothing person to follow through on your ideas.
Thanks for reading.