Working with aspiring entrepreneurs makes every day different. Each budding business owner brings a unique perspective to his or her business concept. What’s not terribly unique are the emotions and personal discoveries entrepreneurs learn about themselves as they launch their new adventures. Starting a new business is exciting and invigorating. It can be liberating. At the same time, it's been said that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Some of the discoveries can be uncomfortable, maybe even expensive, and painful. There are some simple questions that an aspiring entrepreneur can ask herself before launching a business to know if she is ready for the good and the difficult parts of business ownership. I suggest anyone tempted to start a business have an honest discussion with themselves (and certainly with a trusted advisor if they have one) and dive deep into these questions:
1) Do I have the discipline and stamina?
Owning a business can sometimes feel like a 24/7 responsibility – especially in the beginning days. Take your To Do list and multiply it by five. For every task you can think of, there will be another four that you had not even considered. If you welcome the challenge, keep going. If you don’t want your 8 hours of sleep at night to be disrupted, you might want to think twice about starting the business. There will be plenty of work to keep you up. And that doesn’t even include trying to calm your brain as you go over the multitude of tasks you need to complete. Typically, most of the work falls on the shoulders of the owners. Do you have discipline to be sure you do what must be done to make the business work? Do you emphatically know you are reliable to do all the tasks the business owner must do to make the business run? It’s also been said that small business ownership is a contact sport. Do you have the energy to work all the hours necessary to keep the business running?
2) Do I have a product/service that others want to buy?
This seems like a no-brainer, but the small business graveyard is filled with great ideas. Unfortunately, in many cases there weren’t enough customers to keep them going. Before you spend money to launch a business, be sure there is enough demand. Be REALLY sure, and I suggest you don’t rely on a hunch.
3) Am I comfortable making decisions?
A small business owner will have to make decisions all day long. On anything and everything. Making decisions can be exhausting (see question #1 above). More importantly, some folks are just not comfortable making decisions. In small business, sometimes you must take a leap of faith and decide without having enough information to feel confident. Frankly, taking action one way or another will be necessary. Are you at ease with making decisions? If this causes you stress, you’ll need to think through how you will handle this aspect of business ownership. It cannot be avoided. And it is a fundamental role of the business owner.
4) Will I stand up for myself?
As a small business owner (and in life), you must be your biggest advocate. Others can and most likely will take advantage of you as you get started. This can happen through overcharging, failure to deliver, selling you things you don’t need, misconstruing terms and conditions, being vague about deliverables, failing to perform, and taking advantage of your good nature. While any of this can happen, it doesn’t mean you have to be unpleasant. But you must be willing to be sure you get what you paid for, you are granted the rights you deserve, and you are treated fairly. It’s not always comfortable, but it will be important to your bottom line. As the business owner, you are the leader. You must be willing to be in charge.
5) How do I react when the going gets tough?
Do you run and hide under a blanket? Entrepreneurs frequently are put in sticky situations that they could never have anticipated. It is important to be willing to step up to challenges – because I promise there will be plenty to test you. If you thrive in chaos and love to flex your creative muscles, you’re in for a treat. If delegating issues to someone else, or side-stepping controversy is your strength, you’ll need to make sure you have someone else on board to handle the challenges you will face with a new business. If difficult situations are simply too much for you, think twice about how you’ll deal with this.
6) Who is the biggest cheerleader for my business?
In this instance, there actually is a right answer and it’s YOU. Small businesses are created out of a passion or a need (or both). You must be the biggest believer in the products or services your business delivers. You are the head cheerleader. If you aren’t passionate about what your business delivers, who will care? Prospects and customers can smell complacency a mile away. If you don’t care, they won’t either. At least not for long. If you aren’t your business’ biggest fan, think twice about investing your money.
7) Will this business help me achieve my personal goals?
Every aspiring entrepreneur dreams of starting a business not because she dreams of working long hours, hiring people, signing a lease, or taking on personal liability. She starts it because she believes it will enable her to live the life she wants - freedom of choices, a standard of living, meaningful work to name a few. If you know from the outset that the business will not enable you to achieve any of your goals, don’t bother. Life is too short. On the other hand, if you truly believe after honestly answering these questions and doing your due diligence that starting a business will ultimately reward you by achieving your goals, then keep on going!
There is no time better than now to start a business. The Great Resignation is proof that others have decided it’s time to live life on their own terms. This is the foundation of entrepreneurship. During times of economic downturns, entrepreneurship thrives! We’re seeing the results of that daily with national economic data. My work with aspiring entrepreneurs every day continues to solidify proof in the strength of small business. It can be a rewarding choice. And while we see examples of the ups and downs of small business every day, there are so many ways to prepare in advance and stack the deck in one’s favor. Start by asking these questions.
Jodi Henson is a small business expert, author, entrepreneur and founder of The Softer Side of Success (www.thesoftersideofsuccess.com) and instructor for the How To Vet Your Business Idea online course. In addition to publishing The Monthly Breakthrough, she maintains a limited consulting practice for small business CEO clients. She also works with aspiring and existing small business owners to help them overcome challenges and create actionable plans that keep them moving forward. If you are looking to identify your next steps, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before you sign a lease, invest in inventory, hire help, you need to do the due diligence. This course walks you through all the aspects of the business you need to fully vet before taking the leap. Learn more here.