Are You Ready to Run the Race of Running a Business? You'll have to be in shape for a 50-meter dash one day, a 10K chug the next and a grueling full marathon most of the time.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You've seen the signs and made the decision: You're going to start your own business.
Immediately, you're sucker-punched by your fears. But the more you think about it, the more you convince yourself that you just might pull it off. Your confidence grows as the days go by. Finally, you've reached the point of no return, and you're ready to push off the starting block with everything you've got.
Related: 5 Things Not to Do Running a Small Business
But before you tear apart the racetrack, make sure you can reach the finish line. Ask yourself these hard questions.
1. Why do you want to run this race?
Make no mistake -- starting your own business is exactly like running a race. A grueling marathon, to be exact. It's fun, exciting and makes you feel alive. But it's also difficult, demanding, and exhausting. For some, it can even be terrifying.
So ask yourself, "Why do I want to run this race?" If you can't come up with an answer, you won't win. But if you do have an answer, keep it in mind while you're running. Make sure it's a good one -- because when you feel like giving up, your answer will help you move your tired feet.
2. Who are you competing against?
You're not a horse wearing blinders, either. You know who you're competing with before the race even starts, so pay attention to the competition. Who are they? What's their track record? And how are you going to keep up with or even surpass them?
It's a whole different game when you're running the show. You're no longer competing with coworkers for a raise -- you're battling it out with other business owners for a piece of the market. Knowing who you're up against helps you be more productive and better prepare for race day.
3. Are you willing to run a different race every single day?
Some days it's a 50-meter dash, other days it's 10K chug. You have to run at a different speed for each. Winners know what the track looks like, where the finish line is, and how to pace themselves. Do you?
Most of the time, you'll be running a grueling marathon. Did you jog along the track, familiarizing yourself with each and every bend before the race? Do you know how long it will take you to reach the finish line? Because you have to pace yourself to succeed. If you don't, you'll run too fast and burn out. Or you'll be too slow and fall behind the pack.
4. What will you do if you don't make it to the finish line?
Self-confidence and a burning desire to succeed are both great -- but they don't mean you'll win. Quite frankly, you're more than likely to underestimate the competition and overestimate your own ability.
Not finishing in first place is fine. Finishing the race is what counts, after all. But you can't finish the race if you don't know what finishing looks like. How do you define success? Do you reach the finish line when you hit a million dollars in revenue -- or a billion? Or is it actually a relay race, where finishing means exiting with a buyout?
Even if you know what your finish line looks like, you might not reach it. Be prepared with a post-race plan no matter what happens.
5. What will you do if you win?
Let's say you're reasonably certain you can run this race and finish it. How would you handle success?
Are you prepared for how success will change your life and the way people perceive you? Will you be okay with those changes? Will you be ready to run an even more high-profile race the next time you start a business? And can you sit back and soak in the victory for a minute?
Don't forget to enjoy the journey
Too many would-be entrepreneurs fall in love with the idea of winning a gold medal. The actual entrepreneurs understand the importance of proper technique, conditioning and endurance. You can't finish a marathon or win a medal without steely determination.
Of course, you can run a race without reaching the finish line. Being a competitor is much more thrilling -- and rewarding -- than being a spectator. But no matter the outcome, don't forget to enjoy the race itself.