You want to become a full time business owner. It's important enough to you that you're willing to leave the security of your full time job, benefits package, and your daily commute all behind. Let me guess: it's about freedom, right? It's about the freedom to do what you want, when you want, and to make all the money that you desire (and deserve). It's also about the freedom to work at the nearest coffee shop instead of a stuffy office and to take the kids to school and be there when they get home. And don't forget the freedom to help others in your own way and make a difference in the world. That's what it boils down to for most entrepreneurs, and yes, it can be like that — but be careful that you're not leaving one job to create another job with no benefits, lower pay, and more hours than you've ever worked in your life.
So, how can you build the business of your dreams and satisfy that all-important thirst for freedom? Timing, planning, and a realistic view of your financial resources; these are the most important pieces. So, if you think you're ready to leave your job, or want to know when the time is right, use this checklist as your guide.
1. Do your research and create a plan? How have you tested your prospective business model? How do you know that you have a viable product or service? Do some market research. Research your competitors; how long have they been around? What makes them successful? What will you do differently and better? What makes your business special? I know that YOU make it special, but not everyone knows you. How will you stand apart from the rest? Test your model with a panel of friends, peers, and total strangers. It's best to ask a third party to be responsible for this focus group testing so that people will provide honest feedback; your friends will most likely tell you what you want to hear. Research the cost and effectiveness of marketing and advertising venues as well. How will you market and grow your business? The "Build it and They Shall Come" belief-system is great if you're a true believer in Law of Attraction, but I like to say that the Law of Attraction is nothing without action. What is the big picture action plan?
2. Do a Breakeven Analysis: If you don't know how, go to your S.C.O.R.E. office and get help. It's critical to have this guideline to know how long your financial resources will last and what your targets are in terms of client base, sales and numbers.
3. Money, Money, Money: Have enough of it to fund your marketing plan, your business needs, and to live on for AT LEAST one year-but preferably three years. Even though we all like to believe that our business will be the exception, under-capitalized businesses almost always fail. Depending on the business model, you may not achieve your breakeven point for 2-3 years.
4. Are You an Entrepreneur or a Technician? Depending on your financial situation, it may be important to perform much of the nuts and bolts work yourself. But remember, you must know how to market your business AND implement your plans for growth. You can't do these things if you're behind the desk all day providing a service and updating your website. Get contractors in place even if money is tight — invest in your business. Hire someone to do the books and a virtual assistant to do administrative work. Your investment will come back to you ten-fold if you spend that time marketing, strategizing and growing as an entrepreneur and a business.
5. Build in a Budget for a Babysitter: If you have small children you may fantasize about being available to them 24/7 when you begin to work from home. Think about what's best for them, you, and your business. It's critical to have a steady schedule of uninterrupted time to grow and maintain your business. Sit down as a family and decide what's best for all of you. Will your kids will be happier playing with a babysitter or going to pre-school and spending QUALITY time with you after your working hours? Sure, schedule time to do the fun stuff and enjoy the flexibility of working from home, but give your business the attention it deserves as well.
There's more, much more to do to build a solid foundation for your new business, but the 5-points above are a good start. When you have these things in place, and a good business model is ready to go, you may be ready to say good-bye to the 8-5 commitment. Just remember, building your business may be more than an 8-5 commitment. If you do it right, you'll work fewer and fewer hours as time goes by and that's worth working toward. It's a wonderful experience and a dream come true. First it needs roots and a foundation and then you and it will flourish!
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.