Stop Waiting; There Is No 'Right' Time to Start Your Business
Remember 2008? Worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression?
It's burned into my memory. I was part of a multimillion dollar company that went completely bankrupt and ended up owing $7 million (an all-too-common story for the time period, unfortunately).
History often repeats itself. Or at least follows somewhat of a cyclical trajectory. It’s what we learn from these experiences that can help prepare for the next crisis and keep moving forward. It's an especially valuable lesson for small-business owners and anyone considering going out on his or her own.
According to banking behemoth JPMorgan, there's an 18 percent chance of an economic recession during the next year. The risk increases to 52 percent within the next two years and reaches a staggering 72 percent by 2021. Will it actually happen? That's anyone’s guess, but it pays to be smart and savvy about what you're doing now to protect yourself in the future. A market crisis doesn’t mean certain death -- it could mean the birth of a new entrepreneur.
From crisis to new beginnings.
With the benefit of hindsight, I honestly can say there’s usually a silver lining to even the darkest storm cloud. My experience jolted me, but it also drove me to start my own company. Easier said than done, but I realized I had to keep going.
I recall it vividly: I was sitting at a sandwich shop with a few of my old college friends. We overhead some students talking about how frustrating it was to get around campus. The bus system was terrible, and they couldn’t keep cars on campus. Remember -- Uber and Lyft weren't yet realities. In that moment, a ride-share system seemed to be the clear solution. I started asking them questions to gauge how they'd feel about the idea. They loved it. My "gotcha!" epiphany was the catalyst for my entrepreneurial journey and became the name for my business, now part of the larger Gotcha Group.
Growing and learning.
Plenty of people have thought about starting a business but stopped themselves because they were afraid, worried they'd get out of their depth or concerned they didn't have the time an energy. I won't lie: Founding a company involves all these things (and more). I set out to solve one specific challenge, but I now realize my idea needed to grow and mature. It never was going to be exactly as I'd planned from day one.
Related: Can We Stop Pivoting Already?
Along the way, I also learned a few lessons that should help anyone starting a company.
- Embrace your role as leader. I had to come to terms with the challenges of being a CEO, without anyone else behind me to share the accountability. I was it. I had to make it work not only for myself but also for all the people who believed in me and my dream. Accept this fact in the beginning, and you’ll be a lot better off in the long run.
- Surround yourself with believers. It sounds simple, but you need a core group of people who believe in you, your vision and approach -- and who are willing to put themselves on the line to help you reach your goals. I was fortunate to have my wife working alongside me when I started my company. Working together can make you stronger or strain your personal relationship. You'll face unexpected pressures, and many of them follow you home. At the end of the day, however, my wife and I still had a shared dream and agreed on our goals. We also set very distinct parameters on who owned which aspects of the business. I highly recommend establishing clear-cut roles to ensure harmony when working with family members.
- Learn the importance of balancing your time. I wanted to go, go, go all the time, without saving room for myself outside of work. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was shorting my family, too. I thought I could do it all. In reality, I needed to learn how to budget my time realistically, without overpromising and making commitments I couldn't honor. It's an easy trap for entrepreneurs who are motivated by stories of seemingly overnight success. You must remain in check and understand these instant sensations are the exception, not the rule. In fact, 50 percent of all small businesses fail before their fifth year in business. Remind yourself why you’re doing this at all. Go play with LEGOs, do some yoga or break some stuff -- whatever it takes to get some “you time.”
- Don’t confuse success with scale. A company that's growing like crazy isn't necessarily successful. Once the world's largest cupcake vendor, Crumbs Bake Shop ultimated failed in part because it kept opening new locations despite its falling sales. In business, it's great to be an optimist. It's even better to be a realist. Keep tabs on competitors, shifts in the market and changing consumer appetites.
- Be flexible! My wife reminds me I can be incredibly stubborn, and she’s right. It’s not an easy thing to hear. But I know I need to hit pause and really listen to the people taking this journey with me. Think about the direction you're giving people and how you're treating them. Pay close attention to the market you're addressing and allow your business to flow with it. Rarely will a company or idea ever remain stagnant.
Related: 10 Rules for Surviving the Recession