First things first, we have a super casual wardrobe here at Small Things HQ. You may notice my husband’s beloved Crocs (with socks no less) and a Duke t-shirt. This is *pretty much* his daily wardrobe except for an occasional swap with an American-themed shirt instead.
If you would have told me a few years ago that my blog, that I started as a resource for my clients when I did hair would become what it has, and that my Master’s Degree Aerospace Engineer husband would quit his job, start his own business, and join me in mine, I would have not believed you.
We never take for granted the freedoms and amazing opportunities we’ve both had with our businesses. There are challenges, like with any job in any industry, but we both absolutely love what we get to do every day.
For a bit more background, January presented me with a huge shift that prompted me to start the hiring process and during the stress of all that I was lamenting to Justin that I really wanted him to step into a more significant role with my business. It was truly perfect timing because we had a few days together in NYC to talk about what he could take off my plate, and by the time we were flying back to Raleigh I was already feeling great about the direction we were heading.
Justin took over all of the accounting-related aspects of my business. I told him I never wanted to open Quickbooks again and that has pretty much been true since he stepped into his role. It removed an enormous amount of stress from me, and freed up some mental space for the things I’m actually good at.
So, Justin is the CFO and a wonderful partner in the business! I realized that I don’t share much about the business/behind the scenes of my blog but I thought it would be fun to do a quick Q & A with Justin as an update about how things have been different since Justin’s major career change last spring.
Q: Were you nervous about quitting your Engineering Job to start something brand new?
Before answering this, let me clarify. While I do have an engineering degree, I wasn’t actively working in an engineering role at the time of my departure. I had worked in engineering before moving into a Business Development position in the same company after finishing grad school with a Masters of Engineering Management (think, MBA-lite). I worked in that role for roughly 2 years before quitting to start Raleigh UAV (originally with a partner who is no longer involved).
Was I nervous? Yes … Kind of.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s situation is different and everyone’s motivations and hesitations will be unique to their situation. The biggest motivating factor for me (to leave my job) was to spend less time traveling for work and more time home with Kate and the boys (Emily wasn’t in the picture yet). I was consistantly traveling 35% of the time and I only sort of liked what I was doing. I enjoyed continuing to be involved with the Air Force, as they were my main customer. But the pace at which the government acquires technology for their aircraft can be mind-numbingly slow. I would frequently find myself on the taxiway at RDU leaving town wondering if this was really what I wanted to be doing with my life. This was a recurrent thought for many months before we really started talking about the possibility of my leaving that job.
Around the same time, I started flying drones locally on my down-time and started to get the idea that it could turn into a full-time job. This is what started the idea of replacing my salary with this new stream of income.
No doubt, finances are the biggest driver for someone considering such a change. For us, Kate had been doing well for a long enough period of time that it seemed that we could take a risk in this way without fear of missing mortgage payments and I knew that if the worst case scenario happed, I’d be able to find a job that could pay the bills.
So very specifically, I was more nervous about “what will people think?” than I was “how will we make this work?” It’s one thing to tell yourself “I don’t care what people think about me”, it’s a whole other matter to actually do something that is a little bit outside of the box. I think most people in the corporate workforce are defined by their jobs and status at some level, and it was difficult to realize that I’d be voluntarily giving up that status and definition. Ultimately, I wanted to try to start a company doing something that I really enjoyed while still being home with Kate and the kids.
Q: What do you like most about working with Kate?
The thing I like most is having a front seat to her being successful. There is a tremendous amount of thought and work that goes into being a successful “influencer” and she works hard at it – even when she doesn’t really feel like it. It also helps me appreciate all she does as a mom and wife, knowing everything else that is on her to-do list.
Q: What would you tell someone who is considering quitting and starting their own business?
– Go for it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back into the workforce and you’ll be glad you tried.
– If at all possible, try it on the side before you quit your day job to do it.
– Don’t scrutinize it toooooo much. No matter how vivid your imagination, you’ll never be able to fully prepare for what you’ll encounter. Example: I had big dreams of doing a lot of drone stuff related to agriculture. I don’t do anything related to agriculture and I’m involved in drone stuff that I never dreamed of prior to jumping in (parking lot inspections, bridge inspections, roadway damage assessment, etc).
– Either hire or make friends with an attorney and an accountant. You may not need to hire them, but you *will* have questions for both.
– Work from home… if you can (don’t rent an office unless you really need it – the lower your fixed costs, the better)
Q: What is your favorite part about working from home?
Flexibility. I played with the boys outside the morning until almost 10am before coming to the NC State Centennial Campus Library where I sit while writing this before studying for my FAA Drone Pilot Recertification test.
I’m not the kind of guy who wants to slink around the house in my pj’s until noon (partly because I’m old, and we’ve had kids for almost 5 years), but MAN is it nice to not *have* to hang around an office until the clock strikes 5:00.
From my perspective, it’s been better than I could have imagined. I wondered if we would have to adjust to being with each other more during the day since we were used to a decent amount of time apart from his work-related travel but that has been only great. It’s easy to shift things around to make sure we each accomplish what we need to in a day, and the flexibility to do that is wonderful. I love that my kids get so much quality time with their dad!
The most dramatic change for me was the mental shift to being the primary income for our family. While I still think I’m sorting through some of that stress and pressure, Justin is deeply supportive of what opportunities I say “yes” to and what I decide to pass on. It certainly feels more like we are working together, even if his contribution to my workday is spending time with the kids because don’t have childcare, versus my feeling like a solo provider.
It was a big shift for us when he quit, but it has truly been an incredible blessing to me and our family.