Everyone dreams about starting their own business. Who doesn't want to be their own boss? Who wouldn't love to tell their current boss to “get lost, I'm outta here!”. Just the thought is liberating, though almost everyone who dreams of it will never do it.
Taking the leap of faith, leaving a secure career (is it really secure?) and venturing out on your own is one of the most liberating but scariest experiences you will ever have. The euphoric feeling of freedom followed by the stomach dropping feeling of “holy shit, I really did it”.
Starting your own business is like having children, you may think you know what it's like, but you really have no idea what it's like until you actually do it. The excitement and energy you feel as you get closer to making the leap is incredible, you're like a kid on Christmas Eve, nothing but possibilities await you. But before you jump in with both feet, you need to stop and have a conversation with yourself.
You have to ask and answer some serious questions that could get you into trouble later on down the line if you don't. While there are many questions that need answers, from my experience, these are the most important one's you need to address.
Why do I want to start my own business?
Everyone has different reasons for wanting to start a business. From my experience, two of the wost reasons are because you want to make a lot of money or because you hate your job. When it comes to money, many entrepreneurs made more when they were working for someone else…..and spent less hours doing it. If you say it's because you hate your job, I got some news for you….you're going to hate your new boss because you can never leave him. Being your own boss and being responsible for your own destiny is one of the most liberating things that can ever happen to you but it can also be the scariest as you now have no one to blame except yourself.
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” ~Steve Jobs
Some great reasons to start a business? As Steve Jobs put it, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” If you feel like your work is not fulfilling and lacks meaning, maybe it's time to consider doing something else. Maybe it's not starting your own business, maybe it's changing careers, but you have that desire to lead a more fulfilling life. Another reason is that you want to be your own boss, not because you hate your old career, but you find it too restricting working for someone else. You have big dreams and a major itch that needs scratching. Maybe you want to create a business that is more in tune with your life and will give you the freedom to pursue other opportunities while still maintaining an income. You only live life once.
Am I prepared to do the work and make the sacrifices?
You make a lot of sacrifices when you start your own business, more than most people realize. Having your own business means being on call, at least mentally, 24 hours a day. At least for the first few years as you are building your business. It's not like working for someone else where you check out at 5pm every Friday, both physically and mentally, and don't have to think about work until 9am Monday morning. If you're someone who has to have their leisure time and loves spending Sundays on the couch reading the paper and watching football, starting your own business may not be for you. Most business owners will tell you that they had to cut out a lot of non-essentials in their life during the first few years. No vegging out in front of the tv every night, no spontaneous weekend trips. Building a successful business requires a massive commitment and you need to be ready for that.
Am I financially able to start my own business?
Don't count on bringing home an income your first year, and possibly longer. If you are leaving work cold turkey and jumping into entrepreneurship with both feet, make sure you have enough money stashed away so you can live during that lean startup period. It doesn't matter what your financial projections tell you, during that first year or so you will either not be making enough money for you to draw a salary, or if there is money, it will need to go back into the business in order to keep it going or to grow it to a self-sustaining position.
The pressure of starting a business is punishing enough, feeling that additional financial pressure can break you. One of the best things you can do is to take that financial pressure off of yourself while you try and build your business. If you don't have the resources to carry you through financially during that first year, consider starting your business part time while you're still drawing an income from your job. Work your job by day and build your future at night and on the weekends.
“I’m working full-time on my job and part time on my fortune. But it won’t be long before I’m working full-time on my fortune… …. can you imagine what my life will look like?” ~ Jim Rohn
Is my family on board?
It's hard enough maintaining a healthy and happy marriage during the best of times. Throw in the additional financial and time pressures of starting your own business and you will truly test how strong your relationship is. If you want to start a business and your spouse or loved one is against it, think carefully before you proceed. Some marriages fail because the additional pressures introduced by starting a business created too much pressure, stress and resentment in the relationship. Starting a business can test even the strongest marriages. If you want to read what it's like being the spouse of an entrepreneur, you should read Meg Cadoux Hirshberg's blog over at Inc magazine.
It's better for both of you to make the decision together, that way at least if things go south, there is no one to blame, there is only each other. I've seen people with successful businesses with failed marriages because it was one persons dream and not the other's and it drove a wedge between the relationship. I've also seen couples go bankrupt from a business, but ultimately happy and with a stronger relationship because they went into it together, for better or for worse.
Is this business in-line with my life plan?
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started out was starting a location based business when my ultimate life plan was to have the freedom to travel and explore life with my family. Before you go all-in on a business idea, make sure that it supports what your personal life goals are and that your business idea doesn't conflict with it. If you want to travel and explore the world, maybe a retail shop isn't the best business model to go with. If you want to be able to take extended periods of time off to pursue other activities, maybe a service business where you are the key equation isn't the model for you. If you need to be around people, maybe an e-commerce store won't be able to fulfill that social need. If you don't choose correctly, you could be faced with a successful business at the expense of personal happiness.
Am I prepared to learn?
You don't have to know everything when you're starting out, what you need though is the ability and desire to learn as you go. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you stories about the idiotic mistakes they made when they were starting out, how little they knew, and how much they thought they knew. It's really funny when you look back and realize how little you knew a year ago compared to what you know now. The best entrepreneurs continually learn and improve month after month, year after year. That's how they get to where they are, they never stop learning. You don't have to know it all when you start, but you better be able to learn as you go or else you'll have a hard time growing your business because it's impossible to improve a business if you don't improve yourself.
Answer slowly then take action
Asking and answering the above questions honestly will potentially save you a lot of heartaches later on down the line. Take time to think things through, talk to other business owners and do some self reflection before you move forward. Doing so will allow you to steam roll your way to building an awesome business because you know you made the right decision.
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