As a recovering serial entrepreneur, the unsolicited question I get asked most often is some version of: "How do I know if it's the right time to start my own business?"
You'd think this would be a hard question to answer. After all, everyone who asks has differing motivations, different plans, different resources--so the answer has to be different for each person, right?
Surprisingly, I find that isn't the case. For most people, the answer is the same. It comes in four parts (the kicker is in the first part):
1. If you have to ask, the time isn't now. Trust this simple rule.
The time to launch your own business is when you no longer need to ask anyone's advise, because you're in a position where you can't not do it.
Put simply, when the time is right, every sinew and tendon in your body, every thought, every synapse, will scream it--and you won't need to ask anyone else's opinion.
Don't get me wrong, asking questions is good (see point four below), but asking this question is a sure sign the time isn't right...yet.
2. There will never be a "right time." Conversely, it's essential to understand that there is no "right time" to launch a new business. There is no ideal economic environment, no perfect market window, no flawless product idea that will guarantee your new business will be a success.
Mediocre products launched in a down economy can be the platform for a successful business (I know, I've been there, multiple times); insanely brilliant products launched in a roaring bull market can collapse like a badly made souffle (been there too, sadly).
The "right time" is when you're ready--no more, no less. Don't look outside for indications as to when the time is right to launch your own business. Look inside, to your own desires and commitment. Launch when you can't not launch, and don't get hung up on the externals.
3. Read this book. While you're waiting for your own "right time", do yourself a huge favor and read this book: The Entrepreneur Equation by Carol Roth is the best guide there is on the considerations to take into account before launching a new venture.
Don't let the cover confuse you. This is tough love for any wannabe entrepreneur. If you can finish this book and still say that you are committed to launching your own business, then your chance of success will be considerably improved. (Fair disclosure, the author is a friend, but we became friends after I read and admired her book.)
4. Come back for advice after you've launched. As we've already established, the fact that you're asking probably means that now is not the right time for you to launch a business, but that doesn't mean that asking questions is wrong.
Quite the opposite. Asking questions after you've launched is essential if you are to move from start-up to viable business. Too many founder/owners launch their new business in "broadcast" mode: "Here we are, here's what we do, aren't we great, buy my product (or service)."
It's like an obnoxious first date with someone intent on bragging to you about all they've achieved, and boasting about all their great attributes.
To succeed, and to get your new business out of what I call Early Struggle, a monologue won't cut it. You need to be in a dialogue: with your potential customers and clients; with your supply chain; with your funders; and yes, with other people who have been there, and done that.
So, while this may not be the right time for you to start your own business, who knows, maybe it will be - in two weeks, two months, two years from now. And when the time is right, you will come back and ask questions, won't you? I'd love for us to have a dialogue.