So You Want to Start a Business: What's Your First Move?
Start something -- anything -- where you can learn about entrepreneurship.
Some people are entrepreneurs because they always have been. They started out running tiny businesses when they were very young and just learned to do it. Other people started businesses because they didn’t have a choice. Maybe they were laid off or they had to change where they lived. Or maybe they were forced by circumstance to start their own business. Others have a passion about an idea or a vision that they want to implement. I would imagine that many entrepreneurs start a business out of some kind of deep yearning to do it; they have a great desire, but it’s really driven by a sense that it was what they were made to do.
Related: Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?
This article is for people who have a feeling they were meant to be entrepreneurs but don’t know how to put that desire into action. They don’t know how to get things started. And when I say “get started,” I’m not necessarily talking about developing a business plan or even coming up with a business idea, which in a lot of cases comes after the yearning but before a real resolve germinates. I meet a lot of people who have a deep desire to do something different, but they are not sure what it is.
I think the very first step in the journey is probably learning a little bit about entrepreneurship through entrepreneurs. Good books or articles on entrepreneurs can give you a glimpse into what it’s like to live in that part of the business world. One book I highly recommend is Growing a Business by Paul Hawken. Hawken's approach to teaching entrepreneurship and explaining the lifestyle was very helpful to me when I started out in the ‘80s. Even though his approach is logical and the book is well-written, it does not read as if it was written by a businessperson, which makes it interesting.
Another method to get a glimpse into this world is to work for an entrepreneur and sample the lifestyle -- while getting paid. This has an additional benefit in that you can learn the right and wrong way to do things in entrepreneurship.
Another starting point would be to try to think about what you are good at and what comes easily to you. The things that come easy to you are usually the things that you enjoy. (Except skiing for me -- I like it but stink at it). Think about the things you like to do. For example, you may not be an accountant, but you may be good with and enjoy working with numbers. Are there activities you enjoy that could be applied to different fields? Writing, debating, etc.?
Try it! Start something -- anything -- where you can learn about entrepreneurship. You’d be surprised how much you will learn from even the very first venture that you start. I talk to young people a lot, and if you don’t have obligations and are interested in entrepreneurship, try it out. Start a low capital business where there isn’t a lot of risk. If you don’t have a high risk appetite, start a business while you are working full-time at another job. The best way to know whether you are an entrepreneur is to dive into the pool and try to swim.
Finally, go to entrepreneurial events in your area and just talk to people who run businesses. Most of the people I know who started businesses knew somebody who had a business. Find a friend who has a similar interest and learn from others.
Brian Hamilton is the chairman and co-founder of Sageworks. He is the original architect of Sageworks’ artificial intelligence platform, FIND. He has dedicated his life to bringing greater clarity to financial statements and to increasing financial literacy among businesses. Hamilton regularly leads discussions on private company performance, the financial strength of companies preparing for an IPO and entrepreneurship in major business and financial news outlets such as CNBC and The Wall Street Journal.