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Are they good or bad?
I’ve had a few side-hustles over my career. I had a steady paycheck from one source, but I also wanted to try something else, something more.
Side-hustles may be seen in a different light, depending on if you are the “hustler” or the “hustled.” If you are the one with the side-business, you may find that you are able to stay at the main job you love because of the supplemental income from your side-business. This is common for people like teachers, who traditionally don’t get paid what they’re worth, but who want to remain in an important and fulfilling career. A side-hustle can also fulfill a passion—perhaps this engineer or accountant plays local gigs in a rock band on weekends because they love playing music. These types of side-hustles usually result in high retention at the main job.
As leaders, the side-hustles that become problematic are the ones that can draw too much focus away from the main job. If we are the “hustler,” then our side business may become more time-consuming and take more and more of our bandwidth, and we may slack off at the main job. Our staff and clients can start to feel disrespected and undervalued by us. Our employers may no longer see us as dependable and may stop considering how we can advance in the company.
If our employees are the ones with the side hustles, the concern is that they might succeed… and then they might leave to do that thing full-time. We’ll lose a great staff-member. And in the worst-case scenarios, they might leave and take some of our top staffers and/or clients with them.
If you know that you have a staffer considering starting a side hustle, consider the best ways to move forward. For some industries, you might be able to create a win-win scenario, because what they want to do dovetails with what your firm does. For example, if you do bridge design and construction and your staffer imagines a start-up company that does bridge inspection, then you might 1) help them develop a new division within the company, or you might 2) help them launch the new start-up with your company as a minority shareholder, so that your firm can then hire the new start-up for all their bridge inspection needs, with the result that the business your firm throws to the new firm brings in revenue.
The main thing you want to avoid is a situation in which a former staffer sets themselves up in direct competition with your firm. “Non-compete” contracts are complex, variable, and waaaaay beyond the scope of this post, but they are something to consider with your lawyer(s) if your work contains proprietary materials or processes.
If you communicate with your staffers, you can find out what their professional dreams and aspirations are, and then you can work with them—or even find out-side-the-box ways—to help them succeed in ways that result in a win-win outcome for them, you, and the company.