When I was a kid, the majority of adults in my life were business owners. Both of my parents, my grandfathers, uncles and even close friends of the family were entrepreneurs. To me that seemed normal. It was what people did when they grew up. While most of them started from very humble beginnings and struggled to make ends meet, their commitment to their ventures was something I greatly admired.
The idea of working for someone else was foreign to me. Yet, when it was my time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wasn't sure. In fact, I didn't even think about following in their entrepreneurial footsteps. Instead, I did the opposite: I decided to work for someone else.
Eventually, I found myself feeling unfulfilled, unsettled and extremely antsy. I was always successful at the jobs I held. I had a strong work ethic and I went above and beyond the call of duty. But at the same time, I felt like I wasn’t working for the right cause. Deep down, I knew I was meant to do more with my life and career. I was an employee, but there was an entrepreneur trapped inside screaming to get out.
I know I'm not alone. Most professionals who consider starting their own businesses fear diving head first into the sea of the self-employed. Owning your own business takes a large amount of chutzpah and acceptance that the waters can be rough along the way. You must have a willingness to ride the waves and keep going. If the stability of a regular paycheck is more valuable to you than being the boss or the idea of taking on such an enormous responsibility of building a business from the ground up is grueling, then staying employed might be your best option. (Remember you can work for someone else and still approach your career in an entrepreneurial way.) But if you’re like me, and have a burning desire to build something with your name on it, then you have to unshackle your inner entrepreneur.
If you think you are ready to take the plunge, ask yourself these six questions before you do to assess how prepared you are for what lies ahead.
Do you believe anything is possible? If you don’t believe this, hold off quitting your day job and spend some time changing your mindset. The truth is, business owners have to have a solid belief in what they're doing and believe that they can make the impossible happen. It is very likely that there will be bumps along the way. When doubt seeps in and tests your commitment, you have to have belief to keep going. If you tend to find the negative side of everything or you give up when things get rough, then you are probably not ready to embark on the challenge of owning your own company.
Do you believe you’re capable? If you don’t believe you're capable, no one else will, including customers, clients, or investors. Believing in what you’re doing and believing you’re capable are two key ingredients for selling your business to the consumer. If you lack either, dig deeper to figure out if it’s lack of confidence in your business or a lack of confidence in yourself. In either case, do some work to strengthen your belief because you’re going to need it.
What’s your purpose? If your reason for going into business is purely to serve your own need to be the boss or because you think that’s how you’re going to make a lot of money, then you are setting yourself up for failure. It’s imperative for business owners to have a purpose beyond that which is self-serving. Of course your business must also serve you, but that’s a naturally inherent reason to consider entrepreneurship in the first place.
How well do you recognize when you need help? I don’t care how smart or driven you are – at some point in your career, you will need to call upon others for help. Whether that’s recognizing it’s time to hire an assistant or someone to help you market your company, realizing you need help and then asking for it is vital for your success. You are only one person and there are only 24 hours in a day. Spending time on things that you can ask others to do is not only necessary, but it makes you a smart business owner and a successful one.
How willing are you to market yourself? When I was training to be a coach, I worried about how I would market my business. I never thought of myself as a salesperson, and I always felt uncomfortable selling. My teacher at the time told me something that changed my life and my ability to be a successful entrepreneur. He said sales and marketing is nothing more than sharing information about you and your business. He then said if you enjoy telling people about what you do then you are naturally good at sales. He concluded that sharing information about your business is the same thing as selling your business. What I will add to what he said is that sales and marketing are also about figuring out how your services can make another person (or company’s) life better – you want to ask questions about their needs and challenges and then convey how you can help solve them.
Do you really have the stomach for what’s lies ahead? Some people thrive on the challenges that come with being a business owner. It means making enough money to sustain the business, while also supporting your family. Success or failure rests on your shoulders. If you feel you are not cut out for all that’s in store while maintaining a personal life, your ability to sleep and your sanity and health, then it’s probably best that you stay put for now. Just because you’re not ready today, doesn’t mean you won’t be ready tomorrow.
One final note: We all need mentors to inspire us and show us the way. I feel very fortunate to have had such amazing role models in those closest to me when I was a kid, but I recognize that you may not know anyone personally who has been daring enough to embark on the entrepreneurial journey. Don’t fret. Inspiration can come from people we don’t know as much as from those we know. Consider seeking out some success stories of entrepreneurs who came from similar backgrounds to yours and if those people are not personally accessible to you, read everything you can about their journey. Doing so can inspire you on many levels and their stories can help keep you going when the road gets rocky.