Some time ago, my father handed me a book, Who Moved My Cheese, by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It’s a short one; I finished it in just under an hour. The theme is about anticipating, accepting and enjoying change in work and in life. It’s about having the guts to step out of our comfort zones. The tendency to stay in one’s comfort zone, specially within the corporate ladder, is also touched by Robert Kiyosaki in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Mr. Kiyosaki beautifully explains why we have to move out of the rat race, and to do it early. Striking out on one’s own becomes more difficult later in life – with family, loans and other expenses.
Except for a lucky few, an employee cannot own the company he/she is working for. Owning your own business, becoming the boss and having control over your time are some of the reasons to start your own business.
The tips on how to start your a business are as numerous as the people who believe they can dispense with those tips. There are so many books dealing on the secrets of becoming rich, earning millions and becoming a millionaire — fast. I won’t even pretend to give tips. However, here are the things I asked myself when I decided to strike it on my own:
Am I up to the challenge? Am I passionate with what I’m doing? Everyone has preferences when it comes to the choice between working as an employee and engaging in one’s own business. Others prefer working in an office, while others are willing to take the risk and pursue their entrepreneurial spirit. There’s a level of security in expecting a fixed salary every 15th and 30th of the month, plus 13th month pay and bonuses. You don’t have this luxury if you have your own business, but the pay-off is also significant if you hit pay dirt. Before starting our, ask yourself if you have the guts to do it on your own.
Do I have the required knowledge and skills? You should have, at the very least, a working knowledge and basic skills with respect to the endeavor that you’re planning to undertake. An entrepreneur, by nature, is highly curious and has a huge appetite for learning. This is good, but further learning presupposes that you have the basic knowledge and training. Know yourself and your capabilities. Know the business. Get to know your competition. In the “Art of War”, Sun Tzu says: “Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril”.
Do I have the network? No man – or business – is an island, which is true even for monopolies. Build your network even before you take a dive in the entrepreneurial ocean.
Am I financially stable? Let’s face it, there’s a lag time before return on investment (ROI) or profits trickle in, and that’s when you’re lucky. I’ve noticed that the general consensus is to have a buffer of 6 months, which simply means that you should have enough money to support you and your family for 6 months, even if you’re not earning anything from your entrepreneurial endeavor. The best option is not to quit your day job, while at the same time exploring the business on your mind.
Do I have the entrepreneurial fighting attitude? Entrepreneurs have a positive outlook, which means that they see the sun even when there’s no ROI yet. Still, the level of doubt is directly proportional to the length of time that profits start to trickle in. After a year of being in a business without profits, you’ll begin to ask yourself if it’s worth pursuing. However, if you love what you’re doing, you’ll have a higher tolerance for self-doubt. As long as you have enough means to support your (and your family’s) basic needs, you won’t really mind.
What’s my back-up plan? If your first endeavor is successful, pat yourself on the back. However, not all entrepreneurs succeed on the first venture. If the worst-case scenario happens and your endeavor folds, what’s next? There should be a Plan B, at the very least. Line up other alternatives and be open to new opportunities. On the other hand, watch out for the other extreme – you’ll stretch yourself too thin. Focus on what’s at hand, but don’t forget to check other prospects.