The 3-Step Startup Journey
Starting a business isn’t a singular event, but a journey with three important phases: permission, planning, and practice.
Most people who haven’t been entrepreneurs may be scared off by the myths and hype that accompany the subject of starting a business. They’ll talk about it. They may go to seminars or watch motivational videos online. They’ll dance around the subject for so long that they accumulate enough reasons to put off launching their own enterprise until they aren’t able to.
I’ve found that the biggest hurdle to joining the startup movement isn’t the business planning or even the funding issues. It’s that people won’t give themselves permission to try.
Giving yourself permission to try, perhaps even to fail at some or all of it, is the key to taking any next steps. Giving yourself permission to start small, to start slow, and to start with your own needs and values firmly established is the best way to start.
As an ageless entrepreneur, you may feel a greater sense of self-empowerment. After all, you’ve worked for the first half of your lifetime—most likely for someone else. So, giving yourself permission to be your own boss may be easier than you think. Older entrepreneurs have a unique perspective: We’ve typically tried more things. We’ve developed valuable lists of “what not to do next time.” We know the kinds of people who can be trusted to share our entrepreneurial vision and those who can’t. We typically don’t need to develop instant cash flows from our enterprises (at least, if we’re starting with some money already saved or invested). Why wouldn’t you allow yourself to create something that’s for YOU and no one else?
You aren’t an island, though. When you start to consider your new enterprise, make sure to discuss the implications with your own family first. They need reassurance that you have clear boundaries about the amount of money you intend to commit and the amount of time you’re willing to spend. Both your family and your intended customers want to see a clear purpose in what you’re offering and how you intend to deliver that benefit. The trick is to have the conversation, then act.
But I can’t give you permission to be an entrepreneur. Only you can give yourself that permission.
Once you’ve given yourself permission to pursue an ageless startup, do a little planning that briefly lays out your goals and expectations. For older entrepreneurs, the joy of planning is that you don’t have to lay out a fantasy growth scenario for attracting investors and taking your company public. If you want that kind of business, you’ll need to expand your research significantly. The vast majority of us will create business plans that support us individually as solo entrepreneurs. The U.S. Census Bureau defines this kind of businesses as something called nonemployer businesses. Over three quarters of all businesses in the U.S. are nonemployer businesses. That’s just under 25 million solo entrepreneurs out of a total of about 32 million U.S. businesses.
You can plan an enterprise that meets your own needs and expectations. Your plan doesn’t have to buy into the myth of the sleep-deprived, fully consumed entrepreneur sleeping under their desk to get a jump on tomorrow.
You can set up your ageless startup to match your own schedule and your own interests and abilities. About 50 percent of nonemployer business owners spend less than 20 hours a week working for or managing their business. About 20 percent spend between 20 and 40 hours. Only 30 percent spend at least 40 hours a week on the business.
You’ll have to realistically consider how much income you want your new enterprise to produce. If you can create a plan that doesn’t generate a lot of income initially, you’ll be setting your expectations appropriately, as almost everything takes longer than you want when starting a new business. That said, on average, nonemployer businesses earn about $47,000 annually. That’s revenue, not profit. Your results will vary.
I tell friends to plan their ageless startups around making a contribution to their communities doing something they love. Communities can be their physical surroundings or a business community of interests that spans the globe.
Plan to charge appropriately for your services at a rate that exceeds what you’ll spend. How much you grow your enterprise, and how smartly you hold to—and improve on—your plan will determine how much income you generate for yourself.
Planning isn’t a mystical process of divining the future. Planning is an exercise in looking into yourself to determine what you think is worth pursuing and then telling yourself the story of how you’ll get there. Ignore shortcuts and fast answers. Your plan is your story to write.
I like thinking about new and emerging enterprises as practices. Think of medical or law practices, or tax, accounting, or consulting practices, among many examples. All of these share something in common with a new startup—they’re deeply rooted in the day-to-day practice of using your unique skill set. As a startup business, you’ll benefit in this new economy by holding yourself to this level of professionalism, no matter what kind of enterprise you have.
Professionals who operate their businesses continually practice. They get better, innovate, and grow. They continue to find new ways to add value for their customers.
Or they fail.
What’s also implied is that you must plan strategies and business processes that make you increasingly proficient in the professional practice you’re creating. It’s vital that you learn and improve with every transaction. Building a successful practice means establishing a professional business model as well as a subject expertise.
You can enter any part of our economy at a small scale that matches your goals and aspirations. But it’s crucial to build a professional practice and personally grow in professionalism as you develop your business model. Treat your business like the professional practice it is right from the start.