I have a business idea and would like to start up my own company (providing solutions to theme parks). I could write the software in my own time however im worried starting a business whilst still being full time employed could be impractical (contact during business hours would be hard for example).
Can anyone offer any advice to mitigate this problem? Is it even possible?
You could develop the product in your spare time, and take it on full time when ready to launch.
By the time you have something ready to launch, you should have a fair idea if it's going to work or not, particularly if you managed to have a beta period or at least a pre-launch page and a bunch of email addresses gathered.
It's not out of the question to do it part-time after launch, you could for example offer email only support. I do think you are reducing the chance of success by doing it this way. A successful startup isn't easy, any extra challenges you add like only working part-time on it will decrease your chances.
Like Joel said. Work it part-time until the revenue equals (or gets close) to what you're making full-time before you jump ship.
One of the biggest reasons startups fail is cash flow. No cash = no business. By keeping your FT job you mitigate the risk of this startup failing. And if you have a family then you need to take that into consideration as well.
Oh, one last thing - cash flow the business. Do not leverage debt. It's a risk you don't need and although the business might grow slower you'll sleep better.
My 1st e-commerce site was cash flowed and when I shut it down 2 years later I had zero debt and no stress on the whole thing. The 2nd business I was involved with the owner had tons of debt and it ran the company into the ground.
Good luck and have fun!
This is a classic risk vs. reward scenario. One thing you could do to mitigate the risk while keeping your "day job" is take on a sales partner who has availability during the business day. You could do the same thing with first level support (where you are second level, albeit at a less available schedule).
You can absolutely do it, but I'd encourage you to write-up a sketch of a business plan before you sink a lot of energy into the venture. Why? Because theme parks are a niche software market in an industry with huge aversion to risk (and how risky is a one-person sw solution). Do you have connections or authoritative experience to sell into this market? Do you have commitments to spouse, kids, friends, or self that are willing to give up most or all of their time with you?
During the course of completing a quick-n-dirty business plan you may expose other markets you could sell into (guiding your sw toward a more general code base with industry-specific modules), reveal weaknesses in selling strategy that guides you over the subsequent months to network through linkedin to people that can provide connections.
The point is not to discourage you but to force you to think through things you might have overlooked (like how you would deploy & train the software for your first sale, in SomeRandomTown1000MilesAway, which pays Net 90, while holding down the other job).
One way that you can make part-time work in your favor is to target customers outside your geographic timezone. For example, we're an Australian company that consists of 2 people and some contract help as required. However the majority of our customers and prospects are in European and American timezones. This can make for a life of little sleep, but with careful planning you can be super-responsive to your customers and maintain some semblance of a life.
Obviously, you can't always choose where your customers live (we have Australian customers too) but perhaps some careful targeting of your market can help you in those initial stages.