Start Before You Are Ready: Month 2 — Implement the 80/20 Rule

By Angela Mitchell, author, Start Before You Are Ready!

Would you like to know what people said to me when I shared my news with close colleagues that I left the Fortune 500 company and started my own business?

  • “Wow, I admire you! I don’t have it in me to make that move.”
  • “I’ve always wanted to do XYZ, but that is a huge risk to take and follow my passion. I’m just going to stay here and keep grinding.”
  • “I wish I had it in me to take those kinds of risks.”
  • “Aren’t you scared?”
  • And my all-time favorite: “Damn, you have some balls!”

I heard them saying that they thought I was crazy — crazy for leaving such a comfortable job in a leadership position. Crazy for upending my life and venturing off the path I’d worked so long for.

But I could also tell that they were jealous that they didn’t have the courage to do the same thing.

Of course, I was expecting that response from colleagues who only knew me on a surface level.

I expected that my family would be very supportive and proud — and they didn’t disappoint. My brother said, “I always knew you would be the most successful in our family. Dad would be proud as he also knew that you hadn’t reached your full potential.”

My mom, who has always been my biggest cheerleader, said, “You got this! Surprised you didn’t do it sooner.”

What I was not expecting was my husband’s reaction.

He said, “Are you sure you want to do this? You have such a cushy job. I don’t understand why you would want to leave.”

I said, “Because I’m not happy in this job. I want to live my passion. Work used to be fun, but now it is just a list of administrative tasks, and I don’t feel like I’m making an impact.”

He said, “Are you going to make a lot more money? Isn’t there a big risk that this could fail? Do you have everything figured out?”

Did he not know me? Of course, I had most of the plan figured out, 80% to be exact.

It’s something I like to call my “80/20 rule.” It goes like this: Before deciding to take the plunge and leave that stable job, you have to wait until you have 80% of the plan figured out. You will figure out the other 20% once you have started living your roadmap.

And here’s the thing: Even if I could have 100% figured out, don’t do it. It’s a false sense of security. Entrepreneurs need to remain agile and flexible to the unknowns. I know that’s hard to wrap your head around, but I know too many people who go through the process of having it 100% of their new business venture figured — only to fail because they are so tied to the plan that they have tunnel vision.

Instead of figuring it out before you start, give yourself some wiggle room:

  1. You will need to be patient. There are going to be roadblocks that require you to take a detour on the roadmap. You will still reach your final destination, but you might have to go a different way to get there.
  2. You are going to run into traffic. Just like getting onto the Beltway in Washington, DC, you may not reach your final destination in the desired time that you thought you would. You might have to slow down or come to a stop. Eventually, the traffic will subside, and you will continue to move forward.
  3. You will want to play a little. As you drive down this entrepreneurial road, I promise there will some interesting-looking exits along the way you hadn’t planned on visiting, but you should! Veering off to check out the sights will introduce you to places and things you may not have known existed. Best of all, you are going to meet some fascinating people who may change your life.

How do you figure out the 80% part of the plan? 

Helping you do that is exactly the point of this book! While it was true that I was taking a risk by starting my own company, it was a calculated risk. You will discover details to accomplish your goals by implementing my 5-step tried and true approach in the following chapters.

  1. Envision the final destination.
  2. Map out the mile markers.
  3. Anticipate roadblocks that you may face en route and create a few detour options to help you make it through them.
  4. Research, research, and do some more research: Read books, search the internet, talk to friends, talk to friends of friends. The more information, the better.
  5. Prepare to network your butt off — it’s the key to growth.

Bonus tip: This roadmap isn’t only useful for building a business.

I used the 80/20 rule to decide to buy a new house with a higher mortgage than I was comfortable with. My husband was reluctant, so I put the 80% rule into practice.

  • I figured out that we could rent our existing house while the new house was being built.
  • We could move into my parents’ house for free for the 9 months in between.
  • We sold a car an extra car.
  • We created a reduced budget to help us save money.
  • By the end of that 9 month period, we could afford the down payment and the new house mortgage. The best part is that we had an investment rental home and used some of the rent money from our old house to pay the new mortgage.

You can do the same thing when you are approached with opportunities that seem slightly beyond your means. Take a deep breath, sit down and think outside of the box as you build a plan. The importance of the 80/20 rule is that it helps you take calculated risks, not unreasonable ones.

As I look back on the varying reactions that I received when I shared my vision for starting a consulting business, I now see it like this:

  • Colleagues: “You’re crazy, but I wish I could do the same thing.”
  • Family: “I know you can do it, but you succeed in everything you put your mind to.”
  • Husband: “I don’t think this is a good idea, and I don’t trust that you know what you’re doing.”

What’s my takeaway? The only person who has to believe in my vision truly is me! The 80/20 rule gave me the confidence necessary to believe in my plan and combat any nay-sayers.

About those nay-sayers: You will always face people who don’t believe in you and/or your vision. That’s ok. In fact, at some point in your life, you were probably one of those nay-sayers when someone approached you about their vision. I never blame the nay-sayers, but instead, I use them to fuel my desire to succeed and prove them wrong.

Exercise: Many people say they don’t care what others think, but they truly do.  Their spirits are lifted when they get positive feedback.  Likewise, their dreams can be crushed with a negative reaction—the exercise for this chapter is to prepare for the nay-sayers.

  1. Group your friends, family, colleagues into four different categories:
    • Wants to see me win: they will take an active role in your journey and will offer help and assistance along the way.
    • Wants to see me lose: they will take an active role in seeing you not reach your goals and will talk behind your back to grow support in their desire to see you lose.
    • Pessimist to my abilities: they will not stop you along your journey, but they also won’t help as they think it will be a waste of time.
    • Optimistic to my abilities: while they think you would possibly be successful, they won’t volunteer to help you on your path, but if asked, they will support you.
  2. Envision the potential responses you will receive from these groups and write them down.
  3. Save this list. As you build out your 80% plan, revisit this list and write concrete actions in your plan to combat their responses.
  4. Once you have your canned responses built out, begin to share your vision with those people. You will be better prepared for the responses and now have the confidence to keep moving forward with your journey, no matter what someone says. 

Click here to read more of “Start Before You Are Ready.”

About author and entrepreneur Angela Mitchell

Angela Mitchell, CEO, and CASE Management Consulting president, based in Washington, DC. A multi-million, 8(a) Certified, Minority Woman-owned Small Business founded in 2016, CASE delivers secure, high-quality web-based process automation tools and knowledge management solutions. CASE guides an organization through change, focusing on business processes and technology. “Our mission is to provide leaders with real data to make better business decisions,” Angela says.

Angela is also the co-founder and director of Kids Code Too a non-profit organization focused on building computer science confidence in elementary students (3-8th grades) from underserved communities. Kids Code Too teaches students to build computers, utilize the computers to learn to code, and teach other kids to do the same. Learn more here.