To Start or Not: The Entrepreneurial Debate
Let's face it: most of us have ideas that we think might sell. And most of us think we'd love to work for ourselves. But is that really a good idea? Here are 10 things to consider if you're thinking of starting your own business.
1. Do you care?
Ok, so you have a good idea that might make some money, and you envision yourself conducting business by cell phone while watching the waves roll by in Fiji, but do you actually care? Do you want to make people's lives better, easier, more fulfilling, whatever, though your new business? If you don't care, you'll run out of steam before the long haul of starting a business even gets started.
2. Do you have what it takes?
The reality of the entrepreneur's life is, well...craziness. Long hours. Disappointments. Patience even when the bills are piling up. Basically, investing all of yourself and much of your future in the public's response to a product. If you don't have the persistence, the blasted stick-with-it-ness to keep going no matter what, you might sink when the first hard time comes.
3. Do you have the social support?
What do your family and friends think of this new idea of yours, and your dedication to it? Do they see you as haring off on a wild goose chase, or are they chomping at the bit to buy what you're offering? More importantly, are they willing to put up with your long hours, cash flow difficulties, moodiness, exhaustion, etc.? If they are, you have a much better chance of succeeding.
4. Do you have a financial plan?
Booor-iiing! And I agree. But absolutely necessary. How much do you need to start your business? When do you envision yourself turning a profit? What will you do if it doesn't happen? Who are you going to approach for the capital to get going (if you don't have it yourself)? The more of these questions you can answer, the better off you'll be.
5. Do you have a backup plan?
What happens if no one wants what you have to offer? Or if your baby gets sick and needs serious medical care before you have health insurance again? We hope these won't happen, but they're realistic possibilities. You have a better chance of making it as a startup if you've thought these through. Most likely, everything you think of won't happen. But something will, and you're more likely to survive if you've thought it through.
6. Do you have the time?
Are you willing to pour most of the time that you're not asleep (and some of the time that you should be) into getting this thing going? If you aren't, maybe you want to work for someone else for a few more years, or until you get an idea that inspires you to pour yourself, and your time, into it.
7. Are you willing to tell the truth, no matter what?
Are you willing to tell the people you're wanting to hire that most likely your business will fail. Most new businesses do, you know. Are you willing to tell possibly buyers that you don't know how your product sells? Because you don't. If you don't have an ironclad integrity, you may want to reconsider starting your own business.
8. Do you have enough experience?
Do you have any idea what it take to produce your product or facilitate your service? To run a business? To hire the people who will write good code and actually make your product do what you want it to? While experiences in everything isn't necessary, the more you (and your business partners) have, the better.
9. Do you have a niche?
Who will buy your product or service? Who are you marketing to? Where do they meet, and when, and how? What does your product offer that others don't? Why should people even look at what you're doing? The more defined (not narrow, but sharp!) answers you can give to these questions, the better chance you have for success. You will aim and fire where you want to, and not waste time and energy on a scatter technique.
10. Do you care what others think of you?
Ok, you have to care some because you want people to pay your for something. But do you care when people look at you and think you're crazy to give up your security for something that doesn't have a great chance of success? Does it bother you when people get a blank look after you tell them what you do? The more independent and sure of yourself you are in this regard, the better your chances for success.
And a bonus: Are you a lover or a fighter?
Both can succeed as entrepreneurs, but they'll do it very differently. A lover might value forming lasting relationships with her investors where a fighter would try to convince them, overwhelmingly, that their product is going to win over millions. If you don't know which you are, you can spend a lot of time and energy trying to do things in a way that is counterintuitive for you. While both are good strategies to know, it's better to go with your gut the first time out. There will be time to learn more later.
It's hard to be an entrepreneur. It's a demanding, difficult life. But it's also highly rewarding. Here are some of the best insights I've found to give you a realistic perspective that won't destroy your hope.
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