Monday, February 9, 2015

Should you become an entrepreneur?

There are probably 92 gazillion articles out there on how to be an entrepreneur. Most of them assume that you've already decided to go it alone and are ready to become the next Steve Jobs, Larry Page or Anita Roddick.

That sort of ignores the people who are sitting at a desk or their breakfast table and asking "should I become an entrepreneur" because let's face it, the idea of having no one to turn to but yourself when things get rocky is just plain scary.

Here are 5 questions to ask that may help you take the plunge.

1.  Is there a compelling need for what I want to do or make?

Notice I didn't a say "a market for" something. Demand can be created. That's sales, not vision. What you need is the vision to see where something you do or have solves a problem for someone. We are not talking about inventing the internet here. For example, the dawn of the computer age created a need for smaller, more mobile devices, which led to laptops, which led to the smart phones of today and a market for creating apps.

2.  Does your passion line up with your personality?

Are you a bulldog or a greyhound? Some entrepreneurs are fabulous at conceiving an idea and taking it to a certain level, but then they get bored and want to move on to the next big adrenaline rush. Others are prepared to handle every aspect of an idea in minute detail. Each type can be successful, but they can also waste a lot of money and effort by not matching their personality to their passion.

3.  Can you ask for and accept help?

The most attractive part of being "self-employed" for many people is the "self" part. The idea of not having a boss can cause some people to think that asking for help is a sign of failure. No one knows everything or does everything perfectly.  Know your weaknesses and recruit to overcome them, not to showcase your strengths.

4.  Are you a planner?

In my business I work with a lot of fledgling businesses, both for-profits and nonprofits. I can absolutely attest to the truth of the old saying that those who don't plan absolutely do fail. Planning is about facing reality. If you are afraid to confront facts, you are dragging a ball and chain into your new venture.

Philosophically, it might be better to try and fail than to never try at all, but it's also damned expensive.

Lay it all out on paper.  Sure, maybe you will come to the conclusion that your idea is not viable. So what? Isn’t it better to find out now before you bankrupt yourself? More likely though, your plan will reveal a smoother path to success by identifying and steering you around the rocks in the path or even to a new and better path.

5. Do you know how much entrepreneurship you can afford?

It doesn't matter if you want to save the world or invent the next great fly swatter. It all takes cash and there is only so much of it to go around.

One of the hardest things for me to get through to would-be entrepreneurs is that there is no money fairy. In any business plan, there is something called a SWOT analysis…Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The most common weakness is not  being under-capitalized, but having no strategy to overcome that problem.

You may know exactly what the pinnacle of success looks like to you, but you can't start there.

The only business I know of where you can start on top is grave digging, and the only place to go with that is down. It's unlikely that someone is going to give you a million tax-free dollars to start your business so be realistic. If that means starting your business in a garage, well, a couple of guys named Steve were pretty successful with that approach.

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