Is the entrepreneurial spirit calling your name? Do you dream of becoming your own boss, reporting only to yourself? Do you entertain fantasies of crossing the hall to go to work rather than feeling cross with delays and traffic congestion? Do you have a brilliant idea (or two or three or a thousand!) that's just waiting to be born? Then this article is for you.
Based on years of coaching entrepreneurs, some who had a great start and those who had a rocky beginning, I've put together this list of "must haves" for those who are considering leaving their day job or investing hard-earned savings into their business concept. Please keep in mind that every business is different and I'm certainly not going to address them all in this article, but here are a few things to keep in mind.
Note: This article does not apply to brick and mortar businesses. If you're considering retail please make sure to hire an outstanding business accountant and working closely with them before launching or purchasing your business.
1. Explore the possibilities of going part time for at least one year and working on your business part time. This is the best of both worlds. If that's not possible than schedule time in the evenings and on weekends to work on your concept. Take it slow and be intentional with your planning. This isn't always easy for the creative entrepreneur, so make sure you have someone in your life to help you with the occasional reality check.
2. Create a marketing plan. It's critical to take a realistic look at where your customers will come from, how you will reach them, and how long they are likely to remain customers. Many business owners begin with family, friends and neighbors, and that's great, but eventually everyone runs out of those!
3. Work with an accountant or S.C.O.R.E. representative to create financial projections. Even if you're working out of your home there are always costs associated with running a business. If you can't afford an effective website and SEO, as well as marketing materials, it's not the time to start your business. Look at how long you can sustain your standard of living on your savings based on a realistic financial projection. Create a best case scenario and a worst case scenario and plot your steps somewhere in the middle.
4. Put together and meet with an advisory committee. Don't feel intimidated with this; people are typically very happy to help out with a new business. This is a group of peers, friends, family, and/or mentors who each have a strong understanding in a specific area of business. You might have someone who has a creative marketing brain, someone who really knows numbers, and another person who is great with technology or social networking, etc.
5. If you are an inventor, understand that obtaining capital for manufacturing is possible but it's a really long stretch to believe that you are going to enter a bank and get a loan because your idea is the next greatest thing since chewing gum. It may cost tens of thousands simply to create your prototype, so if you have - let's say $100,000 - to invest in your idea, make sure it's disposable income that you're gambling with. To offset the risk, it's probably best to have a financial investor or partner right from the beginning. I highly recommend reading Kim Lavine's "Mommy Millionaire" for a realistic picture of developing your idea.
6. Do you have children at home? Many parents believe that they can develop a business while they are staying home with their children full time. It's not impossible but it is very stressful. A weekly schedule is your best friend. Schedule the time you will work on your business and the time you will have with the kids. Schedule playgroup swaps, nap time, evening work time, etc. Trying to squeeze in phone calls, computer time and meetings with the kids demanding your attention is one sure fire way to make yourself crazy and the children unhappy. Create priorities and a realistic time frame for your business development.
7. Make sure you have the support of your spouse or significant other. This is an exciting step in your life, but now you will have other demands on your time and energy. You will need a strong shoulder and your spouse deserves to know if and how your life together may change.
As you can see, the sacrifices of owning your own business are many. But for those of us who truly possess the entrepreneurial spirit, the rewards are countless. Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself, this is the most important piece of all. You will make mistakes-we all do. Celebrate each little success and enjoy the ride!
What do you believe are the most important planning steps for starting a business? Share them with us!
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.