If you're serious about starting your own business and you have a full-time job that you can't walk away from, it's possible to get there from here. Follow these 17 steps to begin creating and successfully growing your business without leaving (or shortchanging) the job that pays your bills.
Following these steps is like having your own business coach. Try them out, make them work--make it happen!
1. Set your vision. The first step in establishing your business is having a vision for the company. Your vision tells you--and others--what business you're in and where the company is headed. As you're developing your vision, focus on what you want to create. Most successful businesses feel a need and then find a way to meet it.
2. Determine your mission. Your mission statement is not the same as your vision; your vision is about where you're going, and your mission statement is about your planned impact on your customers and society.
3. Fix your purpose. Your purpose statement sets forth what your business stands for. It lets people know why your business exists--not what you do, but why you do it. From the customer's point of view, it clarifies what your business is all about. The purpose should be compelling and bring meaning to your employees (once you have them).
4. Find your validation. Is there a need in the market for your vision, for your product or service? Figure out where you stand. Market research allows you to attract attention and create interest, and it gives you the credibility you need when you're starting up.
5. Develop your skills. Are there new ones you need to learn, or old ones you need to brush up on? Will you go DIY or hire a pro? Mapping out the skills you need--and the ones you need help with--is important.
6. Figure out what sets you apart. What's your competitive advantage? What is the unique proposition you have to offer your customers or clients that will make your business a success? What will bring them in? What will make them stay? These are the points that make or break a business.
7. Set your values. Most companies have a mission and vision but few express their values. A set of company values provides a playbook for the choices you make and the actions you will take in your business.
8. Work through your pitch. Start working on your elevator pitch. How will you talk about your company and express what it does? Keep it concise, understandable, and straight to the point.
9. Plan your steps and timeline. Outline your goals and set a timeline for reaching them. Attainable deadlines ensure that you don't spend a lot of time making lists and talking but not actually getting anywhere. Develop both short- and long-term milestones.
10. Create your map. This is, in essence, your business plan--comprehensive, with definitions and details for each point. You should have both monthly and yearly points, along with notes about what is required at each step for implementation.
11. Delegate. Doing everything in your company yourself is a sure-fire path toward failure. The most successful leaders, the most successful business men and women know what they are best at and learn to delegate and outsource the rest. Even if you don't have any other employees, you can learn to delegate and find strength in diversity by asking friends and family members for help.
12. Cultivate a circle of advisers. Start now to develop an inner circle of people who can give you feedback, coaching, and guidance along the way. Starting a business by yourself can be daunting--recruit people with experience to help you.
13. Walk the line. Make sure that what you are starting does not infringe on or take advantage of the work you are doing now. You want to walk the fine line between creating something new but not stepping on the toes of those you work for now--who, in a way, are making it possible.
14. Be respectful. Don't work on your new business from your current office. Get things done on your lunch break, on weekends, and after hours. Show respect to your current employer.
15. Learn about capital. Every new business needs capital. Where will it come from and how will you raise it? Read, study, and network to learn how venture capital works. You must become good about speaking about money, because capital is one of the most important resources for starting a business and staying in business.
16. Grow your patience. Anything great takes time. One of the best qualities you can develop while you're starting to build your business is patience. Remember, not everything needs to move at 100 miles per hour.
17. Take the plunge. There will come a time that the new business will start to take over, a time when you really feel you have your feet under you. If you've done as much of the startup homework as possible while you are still employed, and if you have enough savings to get by for a set amount of time, then it may be time to take the leap.
Starting your new business while working a full-time job is daunting, but it can be done. Many entrepreneurs before you have blazed this trail--follow in their footsteps and start creating your new successful business today.