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A Fork in the Road

June 1, 2012
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/223479

Changing careers is inherently risky, and the transition from a stable position to an entrepreneurial venture is especially hazardous. For those determined to ditch the 9 to 5 and start a business in a field they're passionate about, there are ways to make the move more of a calculated risk than a blind leap.

"All of us have the psychological attitudes and behaviors and capacity to set goals and attain them," says Stephen Goldbart, clinical psychologist and co-author of Affluence Intelligence: Earn More, Worry Less, and Live a Happy and Balanced Life. However, he says, most people "don't have a really good method to implement their plan."

Pattie Rydlun, a Boston-based career-transition expert, stresses crunching the numbers before embarking on your new path. "Passion doesn't make money," she says. "[You need to determine] if it is something you can monetize."

Once you have a goal in mind, research the market and potential competition and, most important, conduct a thorough break-even analysis. "The break-even analysis, if it's done right, will be very clear about when you can expect to make a profit," Rydlun says. "I would make that my determining factor [for when to leave my current job] and certainly not give any notice until I can see the realization of that break-even analysis."

A solid business plan, vetted by at least two people with industry experience, is key. It should be "one that anyone can understand and that looks at the opportunities and the risks,"

Goldbart says. He adds that another important step is an honest appraisal of your skills, determining "what are your strengths, what are your vulnerabilities and how [you can] leverage your strengths and either delegate your vulnerabilities or find ways to increase those areas so you will be stronger in them."

Finally, be prepared to move on if things go south. "In developing any financial venture, you need to be able to persist and have resilience in dealing with the inevitable obstacles and barriers," Goldbart says. "You also need to be able to objectively analyze the data coming in about your project and decide when enough is enough."