The side job: the good, the bad, the ugly…

Reflection on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the side job of an entrepreneur as I am entering in the last week of a 4-month contract I accepted last January, when faced with a very real cash flow need:

As an aspiring entrepreneur, I have been working on my business concept for a few months now, and came to a phase were I had to make a cash investment in order to move to the next step. I was presented in January with a very interesting opportunity to work for a very well-known supermarket brand, to drive the design project of private label products distributed through the store chain. It gave me the chance to learn more about the value chain, from the store perspective, and to be in touch with each actor of the chain, from supplier to store manager via sourcing. While I certainly benefited a lot from this experience for my entrepreneurial journey, I have also been through less than enjoyable moments, experiencing serious doubt on my overall vision…

The Good: With no doubt, the good was all I could learn: how this value chain works, what are the regulations in detail, how the product selection is made, people, jobs, processes…. Being directly in touch with suppliers, I had the opportunity to learn a thing or two about their product, brand, packaging, production, sourcing… And this helped me refine the details of my own venture vision. I also had access to all the industry literature available, from regulation, packaging, processes, market trends… and I am now reading several weekly newsletters and attend online event that keep me up to speed with the industry going-on. Finally, I was part of a team, and it felt great… Being an entrepreneur, especially at the early stage feels very lonely to me, because I am torn between keeping all my business idea to myself in order not to be outpaced by competition, and the need to share my thought so I can refuel on the enthusiasm of my listener… Being part of a team was beneficial as it kept me excited about my project, other’s projects and generally speaking provided the social dynamic that I am lacking of when working solely on my venture at my home office.

The Bad: 1/ The limitation of my role: I had accepted the job, fully knowing my responsibilities would be limited. With my background in product marketing management, and my entrepreneurial mindset, it was sometimes frustrating to stay at my place and not attempting to provide unsolicited ideas, marketing vision, or process improvement suggestion. There was the job title limitation, but there was also the untold truth: I was The Temp… And for some people, The Temp doesn’t provide insight or ideas, The Temp does not lead change or ask challenging questions, The Temp doesn’t confront lack of action head first… You get my point.

2/ The boredom: Well, unless you run the show, any job in a large company has its boring tasks, and as Project manager, you may have an entire day made of boring tasks. Not every project is exciting, one day I was working on sophisticated Belgium chocolate delicacies, the next, I had to drive the design label of multi-purpose sponges, or toilet rolls… So every now and then, I was questioning whether I had enough of it, whether I had learned what I had to, and whether it was time to move on…

The Ugly:  Well it starts with an unbearable commute: 1 hour 20 minutes each way… And what I didn’t anticipate: being exhausted at the end of the long day, not even being able to write a blog post every week (one needs clean laundry too…). As much as I tried to use the commute to read more on the industry market trend, or catch up on emails and business plan on my pad, I felt brainwashed or fell asleep, especially during the very cold week of the winter. The other consequence of that time and energy consuming lifestyle was not being able to attend any live event, or move forward some needed work on my prototype. I reworked my planning over and over again until it was clear to me that I would not deliver a trial batch this summer… Yes, here the doubt crippled in me “How will I ever make it, I am tired all the time, I don’t have the energy, I don’t believe in my capacity to lead my venture…” And the ugly followed me at the darkest hours of the night, waking me up and showing me the terrible vision of never taking the chance to launch my concept, and to keep accumulating a variety of temp jobs more and more disconnected to my career vision, skills, ambition…

But here we are, 4 months later this experience is a good reality check, it was all worth it. Yes let’s face it, the entrepreneur has repetitive and boring tasks to go through, and also I will soon be considered as one more foodie who is launching her concept on the gourmet food market…  Also, I’ll miss the team dynamic and all the product testing I went to! Reflecting back: this 4-month period was a chance to take some distance with my goals, and to gather more insights by discussing and reading about other companies, market trends, and industry challenges, distribution dynamic…  While I am eager to unroll my plan, I am getting at peace with the idea that I should take it slow: I don’t think putting myself (and my family) under the pressure of succeeding or failing quickly is healthy at this point in our life. I love reading success stories of entrepreneurs who put everything on the line and succeeded against all odds… but I value my sanity and the harmony I have had a hard time to create and sustain at home (those who went through a 2-year executive MBA probably know what I am talking about here…). I actually feel very positive and I am looking forward to get another job – making sure the commute is not as challenging, and the job responsibility fits better my ability and desire to be in charge… because these were the real pains. The truth is my business venture has a more solid plan, I have move a little step forward, and I have gain confidence in my ability to drive it forward  in due time.

Is this story resonates with you? Do you have some perspective to offer? Please share your experience…

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