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Knowing When Cut The Cord

It's easy to say that if opportunity knocks, open the door and invite it in. Recognizing whether an opportunity 18 worth staking your future on is another thing altogether.

Unlike many other business owners, I never intended to go into business full time. Truth be told, I so resisted the idea that I didn't quit my job as a personalcomputer network manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs until sales of the software program I had created hit about $25,000 a month. And I had hesitated to make the move even though I had spent months like a hamster on an exercise wheel just trying to keep up.



With virtually no overhead and with sales at least doubling every time I published a new version of the program and increased its price, opportunity was beating at my door. Still, I was afraid that it was only a matter of time before the software industry caught on and developed rival programs, which could put me out of business.

I finally quit my day job when advice I received in response to my inquiries about selling the business convinced me that despite the perceived threat from industry giants, there was greater potential in the software business than merely earning a salary.easy to say that if opportunity knocks, open the door and invite it in. Recognizing whether an opportunity 18 worth staking your future on is another thing altogether.

Unlike many other business owners, I never intended to go into business full time. Truth be told, I so resisted the idea that I didn't quit my job as a personalcomputer network manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs until sales of the software program I had created hit about $25,000 a month. And I had hesitated to make the move even though I had spent months like a hamster on an exercise wheel just trying to keep up.

With virtually no overhead and with sales at least doubling every time I published a new version of the program and increased its price, opportunity was beating at my door. Still, I was afraid that it was only a matter of time before the software industry caught on and developed rival programs, which could put me out of business.

I finally quit my day job when advice I received in response to my inquiries about selling the business convinced me that despite the perceived threat from industry giants, there was greater potential in the software business than merely earning a salary.

Today, my program—Winlnstall, which allows computer network managers to install new software systemwide without having to physically go from one Windows-based PC to another—is the industry standard. Sales reached $3.5 million in 1995. Much of my success, as well as that of the company, OnDemand Software, of Naples, Fla., has been a result of continually finding good advice and a way to stick to what I do best.

Whether you're eager or reluctant to go from being employee to being the boss, seek out as much information as you can before making your decision. Be mindful, however, that not all advice—or those who give it—will be objective. People often have something to gain, either professionally or personally, from having you take their advice.

Trusting your instincts helps to sort out the field of advisers. Also, find people who know the business and the environment you are looking to enter but who have nothing to gain from your success or failure.

In my case, I relied heavily on two attorneys who work exclusively with the software industry. They offered both objective expertise and confidentiality. Their knowledge ofthe industry and their analysis of what I needed to maintain my sanity and sales growth—which turned out to be technical, marketing, and administrative support—helped bring me together with my current partners.

While the four other principals and our staff of Ki in Florida focus on managing the company, I head a development team of four in Washington, D.C, as vice president of development. The day-to-day operations job of president is handled by someone else.

By not going it alone and instead taking on the mantle of vice president, I gained the security of additional expertise and the freedom to concentrate on my product, something I didn't have while I was trying to manage both my business and my job.



When a sideline business starts looking as though it warrants full-time effort, be certain you have a monetary cushion. While I worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs—even as the software business grew—my family lived largely on my salary. We did enjoy some of the software profits, but the lion's share was put into savings. By setting the profits aside, you have a buffer, much like the salary you gave up, should your business take a downturn.

Similarly, as your business establishes a track record for doing well, adjust your goals accordingly. As profits have grown, my goals have changed from paying  summer camp and family vacations to saving for college and retirement. Realize, too, that it's hard to keep your balance when sitting on the fence. When the time comes to determine if you should stay put or go out on your own, try to assess which option will bring the greatest stability to your life. Staying put, finding partners, or venturing out on your own all involve levels of risk. But when your business and job have you by the tail, a measure of risk is worth it to get your life back in balance.

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