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Entrepreneurship and the 80-Hour Workweek

entrepreneur hard at work

If you’re thinking that you can start a business to get away from the 40-hour-a-week grind, you’re likely deluding yourself.

Getting a new business off the ground requires a serious time commitment. I’ve met hundreds of entrepreneurs, and I don’t recall one who succeeded without putting in a lot more time than a standard 40-hour workweek. A minimum of 60 hours a week over at least a few years is more typical for a new business to take hold. (A side hustle may take fewer hours, but it won’t necessarily end up replacing your 9-to-5.)

If you’re not willing and able to devote a great deal of time to a new venture, my suggestion would be to stick with your day job (or, if you’ve been laid off, to look for another one). Inability to meet the time commitment could stem from your general inclination, or from extenuating circumstances:

  • baby on the way
  • small children to care for
  • health challenge for a family member or yourself
  • recent emotional trauma

If these or similar situations are present in your life, wait for them to pass before starting a business.

Do Most Things – But Not Everything – Yourself

I don’t advocate that you do everything yourself. As a couple of specific points, make sure that you get legal and accounting support for your new business from the very early stages. If and when you have funds to hire staff, do so, judiciously.

Until that point, you’re going to be CEO, marketer, salesperson, project manager, cook, bottle washer, and most things in between. You’ll need to handle more roles and put in more time than you probably ever have in any other undertaking.

Still Take Some Time Away From Business

While entrepreneurship and the ideally “balanced” lifestyle may not be compatible, no one is a machine. Even when you’re in the thick of a new business, carve a few hours out of your week for time with family and friends, social/community engagements, exercise, spiritual practice, intellectual pursuits, or other activities that recharge you and keep you reasonably happy and resilient as you face entrepreneurship’s many challenges.

Just don’t expect as much leisure time as you may be used to. Evenings and weekends of television, social media, and chillaxing will probably not drive your new venture to success.

Communicate With Your Spouse

Some research indicates that people who work in startups are 15% more likely to experience a divorce or a breakup. Communicate with your loved ones so you don’t contribute to this sad statistic. If your partner has grave reservations about the time commitment – or the risk – that a new business would entail, you might need to rethink your aspirations.

Bottom line, if you and your family are not ready for the time and sacrifice it takes to establish a business, the entrepreneurial route is probably not for you.

Key Takeaways and Actions

  • Plan to devote a minimum of 60 hours a week to your new venture for at least a few years.
  • Evaluate your current schedule to determine where you could pull in extra time for work beyond the standard 40 hours weekly.
  • If life circumstances would limit the time you could spend on a new business, wait for them to pass before you take any leap.
  • Communicate with your spouse or partner and family before committing to a new venture.
  • Prepare for much less leisure time, but continue to devote a few hours weekly to non-business activities that recharge you.
  • Don’t do legal or accounting on your own.
  • Hire judiciously when the time is right.
Feras Alhlou

Feras Alhlou

Feras has founded, grown, and sold businesses in Silicon Valley and abroad, scaling them from zero revenue to 7 and 8 figures. In 2019, he sold e-Nor, a digital marketing consulting company, to dentsu (a top-5 global media company). Feras has served as an advisor to 150+ other new startup businesses, and in his current venture, Start Up With Feras, he's on a mission to help entrepreneurs in the consulting and services space start and grow their businesses smarter and stronger.

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