Is the entrepreneurial spirit calling your name? Do you dream of becoming your own boss, reporting only to yourself? Entertain fantasies of crossing the hall to go to work rather than suffering through traffic congestion and delays? Do you have a brilliant idea (or two or three or a thousand) just waiting to be born? Then this article is for you.
Based on years of coaching entrepreneurs, some who had a great start and many who had a rocky beginning, I’ve put together this list of "musts" for anyone who is considering abandoning the day job and investing hard-earned savings into their business concept.
1. If you are still in the workforce, explore the possibility of going part time for at least one year to work on your business part time. This is the best of both worlds. If it’s not possible to cut back to part time then make commitments to yourself to reach specific goals and schedule time in the evenings and on weekends to work on your concept. Realistic timelines aren’t always easy for a new entrepreneur, so make sure you have someone in your life to help you with the occasional reality check.
2. Create a marketing plan. It’s critical to take a realistic look at where your customers will come from, how you will reach them, and how long they are likely to remain customers. Many business owners begin with family, friends and neighbors, and that’s great, but eventually everyone runs out of those. Market research will help determine whether or not you have a viable idea. Again, do this research with strangers; your mom and sisters have to love your ideas because they love you!
3. Work with an accountant or S.C.O.R.E. representative to create financial projections and a budget. Even if you’re working out of your home there are always costs associated with running a business. If you can’t afford an effective website and search engine optimization (SEO), as well as marketing materials, it’s not the time to start your business. Look at how long you can sustain your standard of living on your savings based on a realistic financial projection. Create a best case scenario and a worst case scenario and plot your steps based closer to the worse case picture, just to be safe.
4. Put together and meet with an advisory committee. Don’t feel intimidated with this; people are typically very happy to help out with a new business. This is a group of peers, friends, family, and/or mentors who each have a strong understanding in a specific area of business. You might have someone who has a creative marketing brain, someone who really knows numbers, and another person who is great with technology or social networking, etc.
5. Hire a coach. Most of the people who come to me for coaching have been in business for three or more years. Why? Because new entrepreneurs believe they know exactly what to do and don’t anticipate the costly and harmful events that lie ahead. Bad move! Some of my clients have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to those unanticipated events. A seasoned coach has helped many people through those nearly devastating times and can help you navigate those waters and even prevent "amateur mistakes". Save yourself a lot of time, money, and grief and work with a coach from the beginning.
6. If you are an inventor, understand that obtaining capital for manufacturing is possible but it’s a really long stretch to believe that you are going to enter a bank and get a loan because your idea is the next greatest thing since chewing gum. And it may cost tens of thousands just to create your prototype. A lot of people mortgage their home or drain retirement savings to do this. Too often, that money is lost. So make sure you are working with disposable income. To offset the risk, it’s probably best to have a financial investor or partner right from the beginning. I highly recommend reading Kim Lavine’s book, Mommy Millionaire for a realistic picture of getting your product to market.
7. Do you have children at home? Many parents believe that they can develop a business while caring for their children all day long. They believe that they can offset the loss of a full time income by eliminating childcare. It’s not impossible to juggle the needs of your children and build a business but it is very stressful and it will take much, much longer to achieve your goals. A weekly schedule is your best friend. Arrange playgroup swaps, nap time, babysitters and other opportunities for uninterrupted work time. Squeezing in phone calls, computer time, and meetings with the kids demanding your attention is one sure fire way to make yourself crazy and the children miserable. Create priorities and a realistic time frame for your business development.
8. Make sure you have the support of your spouse or significant other. This is an exciting step in your life, but now you will have other demands on your time and energy. You will need a strong shoulder and your spouse deserves to know if and how your life together may change.
As you can see, the sacrifices of owning your own business are many. But for those of us who truly possess the entrepreneurial spirit, the rewards are countless. Be kind and patient with yourself; this is the most important thing of all. You will make mistakes, we all do. Celebrate each little success and enjoy the journey!