Starting your own business is one of the great joys in life and in fact, can probably be said to be part of the American dream. Often ranking right up there with owning your own home, starting a business is one of those things that signifies you have arrived.
But how, exactly, do you do that?
Buying your first house is pretty straightforward, if somewhat daunting: Save up enough for a down payment, qualify for a loan, find a place you love, go into escrow, have a housewarming party.
But starting a business? It can be a little more confusing, although certainly no less daunting. For sure, there are plenty of websites and books out there that can help you (and I have written a couple of those myself), but the problem is that, even so, it can still be overwhelming.
What really helps therefore is to have a ‘big picture’ view before you get started. It’s kind of like looking at a map before you go on that big road-trip. So in this article and the next, what I would like to do is give you that birds-eye view of starting your own business. Once you have that, drilling down into the minutiae of business plans and funding and hiring and all the rest will be far easier, and will make a lot more sense.
So in this article I will examine the first couple of steps. These are the ones that need to happen before you even get started. Then, next time, we will look at the other, more practical steps.
Step 1: Decide if entrepreneurship is really for you:
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Some people are artists, others are athletes, some folks are scientific, and others make great employees. Entrepreneurship takes a certain blend of chutzpah, diligence, creativity, initiative, hard work, leadership, and the ability to live with uncertainty.
As I said, it is not for everybody, and making the mistake of thinking that it is right for you, when in actuality it may not be, can be an expensive and time-consuming error.
So how do you know if it is really for you? Here is my handy-dandy quick test: Does the idea of leaving your current job and steady paycheck and benefits and boss and co-workers and all the rest make you more scared, or happy?
If it excites you more than it petrifies you, then pass Go and collect $200. If however the thought of leaving that security makes you far more scared than thrilled, that is important to know right up front, because this path may not be the right one for you.
Step 2. Vet your idea:
Once you have decided that being your own boss is the right career move for you, then the next step is to analyze your big idea. If you are reading this, then it is probably safe to say that you have a pretty good idea of what sort of business you may want to start. Although it may not be crystal-clear, that is just fine; most folks who start a business need to refine their initial idea. And that is exactly what I am suggesting you do as well.
The important thing to figure out at this initial stage is whether there is actually a market for your business idea and whether you will be able to make a living doing whatever it is you want to do. Following your passion is all well and good, and you have probably heard the phrase, “Do what you love, the money will follow.”
That may, or may not, be true.
If you are a computer geek, starting a business around that makes sense and is doable. But it will be much more difficult if instead what you want to do (taking it to the extreme) is to create a business around your love of 18th Century Flemish architecture.
So think it through, speak with people whose opinion you trust, and take a long, analytical, hard look at what sort of business you want to start and make sure (to the best you can) that it is viable and potentially profitable.
In part two, we will look at how to turn your dream into reality.