Are Side-Entrepreneurs The Weakest Link in the Company?

side entrepreneurI was listening to my new favorite podcast last week – Nick Loper’s Side Hustle Nation – and there was an awesome guest on, Chris Guthrie from Entrepreneur Boost.  In the intro, he said something that really struck me – my boss fired me because he found out about my side job and figured that my heart wasn’t all into the company. 

That sucks…but it got me wondering – are side hustlers and side entrepreneurs a weak link the company?


Where Side Hustling Employees Add Value

I think, in many cases, side hustling employees are some of the most valuable ones in the company.  To be able to work full time and maintain a side hustle requires a level of execution that most employees simply don’t have.  I would venture a guess that many side hustling employees are usually rated in the top 20% of employees in the workplace – simply because of their work ethic and skill set.

Should employers frown on side hustling?

In most cases no.  Side hustling and side entrepreneurs can continue to add value to a company even with their side projects.  Why does it have to be mutually exclusive?

Take the classic example of the barista at Starbucks who builds websites on the side.  How does this side entrepreneurship hurt Starbucks?  They aren’t competing in the same space, and he probably isn’t working on his side business while making coffee.  This employee is also probably one of the best employees behind the counter, because he is good at multi-tasking and getting things done.


When Side Hustling Can Be Trouble

However, there are two circumstances with being a side entrepreneur can be trouble:

  • You’re in violation of a non-compete clause of your employment contract
  • You’re using company time and resources to work on your side hustle

First, some companies (notably tech companies) prevent you from working on side projects without letting the company know.  Furthermore, anything you create from these side projects are typically the property of the company, even if you worked on them off the clock.  This is very common in software and technology, where inventors who are employed by a company have to give all their inventions to the company – even if they made them at home in their spare time.

Second, you can get into trouble if you’re using your company’s resources to work on your side hustle.  For example, if you were building a website during company time and on their computers, this can get you fired.  It also shows that you probably are the weakest link in the company.


The Smart Side Entrepreneur is an Asset

The bottom line is that the smart entrepreneur – the one who follows the rules at work and gets their job done, all while still building a side business – is an asset to the company and should be treated as such.  Companies shouldn’t necessarily frown on side work – it can be a good thing for all involved.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think that side entrepreneurs are the weakest link, or do they add value?

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  1. If I’m a business owner, I’ll take an ambitious, entrepreneurial-type employee over a ‘just let me do my job’ dud any day!

  2. I have to agree with you about side hustlers being in the top 20% of the work force in most cases. We definitely have a lot going for us. But, using company resources and time for your side income can get you fired and leave your side income as your main income! Thanks for the great read!

  3. An ambitious, entrepreneurial type should be an asset to a company but the challenge is that it requires an ambitious, entrepreneurial manager who knows how to motivate that type of person. A classic top-down assembly-line type manager isn’t going to be able to manage someone that has not only a lot of ambitious but a lot of options, the employee won’t respond to that.

    It’s also important to recognize the role you’re hiring into. If you’re running a McDonald’s, you don’t want a side entrepreneur as a cashier. You invest a lot into training and getting that person up to speed, your biggest risk is that they leave. That said, you would want that person to be your manager where rapid advancement is more likely.

    It’s often why you hear of someone being “over-qualified” for a job, it’s the same type of problem for an employer.

    • I agree with you on the problem of being over-qualified, but for minimum wage jobs, you have to expect churn. I would rather hire an side-entrepreneur who’ll stick around for 6 months to a year, rather than someone who will be a dud like Kurt said.

  4. First, thank you for the shout-out!

    This is a fascinating topic, because it’s corporate America and the lack of job-security that have driven so many people to side-hustling! It’s a self-inflicted disease, if they choose to view it that way.

    That said, I think there’s a huge opportunity for companies to encourage side projects as it relates to their own business. Think of Google and their famous “20% time” where people are free to work on whatever they like. Employees still get to exercise their creative energy, and Google benefits from new ideas and products.

    Would I have worked harder at my job had I not had a good side hustle going? I don’t know. I never felt like I was slacking off, but I also never felt any urge to climb the ladder and fully commit to the corporate life.

  5. Thanks for the post and the call out. I still believe the side hustle is something most employers don’t want to hear about – especially in sales (which I was in). It’s just hard to have a passion for being an entrepreneur and work a day job because doing my own thing is what I always wanted to do.

    Ultimately my suggestion is to not tell employers if you are doing anything on the side. I’ve heard other stories as well with similarly bad results. Employers want employees focused on their job at the company unless they can channel that entrepreneurial spirit into some other project at the company (but often I don’t think that works out unless equity is on the table and that only really comes up in smaller companies)

    Just my 2 cents. Do your side hustle but don’t tell your co workers about it and you probably want to use a pen name as well…

  6. I think it all comes down to your side hustle. If you work in a gym and you side hustle as personal trainer, well, that’s an obvious issue.

    If you work in a grocery store and write about finance on the side, there should be no issues.

    It all depends on how they impact each other.

    An ambitious person is always an asset.

  7. My boss knows that I side hustle and she uses the skills from my hustle to better the business. I think it’s insane to fire somebody because they make extra money on the side. That just shows motivation, dedication, and hard work.

  8. I recently had an experience with this. I work for a healthcare software company full time but maintain multiple side businesses. One of the sides is real estate. I brought some of my real estate marketing material for the corner of my cubicle and my vice president of the division saw it. He didnt seem to mind at all, he actually got to talking with me about real estate. The businesses dont compete and I dont use company resources for my real estate business. I figure a real estate relationship is something you want with someone you trust and I assume my cowokers and I have a certain level of trust since we are together 5 days a week so why not.

  9. At my current position as well as my last few positions, my bosses have all felt that by me drawing a paycheck that that entitled the company to own me, to the exclusion of sick time, family time and especially other gainful, side-hustle time. If they’d suspected I had a side hustle, I would have been marginalized until I quit.

  10. Interesting question. I can’t really see this being a problem in my line of work as it’s a helping profession. Unless I’m making someone uncomfortable by using work as a constant place to promote my side hustle or slacking in my responsibilities in any way I think they would see it either as an asset or a non factor. In all likelihood my employer wouldn’t think twice or care about my side business.

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