Life is short. Too short to invest 40-plus hours a week into something that feels thankless. The longer an aspiring entrepreneur ignores the longing for freedom, the more distant and unlikely the dream becomes.
Don't make a rash decision and quit your day job just yet, though. The recipe for entrepreneurial success is part risk, part faith, and part planning. I've been approached by far too many people who jumped in unprepared and sought out coaching as a last-ditch effort to succeed. Sadly, with more preparation upfront, many more of those businesses would have had a good chance of doing just that.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, here are seven things to do before you quit your day job. How ready are you?
1. Make it more than a daydream.
Daydreaming is something you probably do often, and that's great! You need to make this more than a dream though; it's time to work on your plan. Every step, from where you will operate to how you'll fund and market your idea, needs to find a home outside of your head. Declutter your mind by creating a document that outlines your steps and how you will execute them. One caution though: Don't strive for perfection; that's simply another way of putting things off.
2. Connect with helpful people.
You've probably never done this business building thing before, so don't go solo. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Find a couple of successful business people who are willing to provide sage advice and guidance. With the combined experience of a strong support network you're more likely to make better choices. Also, find a great coach who has a solid track record of helping others in your position to succeed. Let's talk about that.
3. Create a budget now.
Before you take the leap from employee to employer, plan for the consequences of a slower than expected take off, or even failure. Do you need to secure financial help from investors? Have you saved money specifically earmarked for living expenses and startup costs? Plan for a long road ahead; if you make it there sooner, you'll have the capital for expansion. If you don't have enough money set aside (double or triple the number that comes to mind) then start socking it away now. Take on a second job if needed--yes, I really said that. You may as well get used to the long hours now, since operating a start-up often leads to many sleepless nights.
4. Tell people about your idea.
If you're afraid to share your idea and expect everyone you meet to sign an NDA, you're acting out of fear. Stop that! Your idea is just an idea, and there are millions of them out there. When you actually have an innovation (an idea turned into a profitable business), you may need to protect it. Right now what you need is feedback, sage advice, and to become well networked. And that takes us to my next point:
5. Build a diverse network.
A solid network for support, connections, and financial support is critical to the success of your soon-to-be business. But don't forget the industry connections related to your current work. Your contingency plan may include returning to a day job (for a period of time at least) and you don't want to lose touch with the people who can help you do that. Please don't burn your bridges! When the time is right, leave your company on good terms and with integrity.
6. Do a test drive.
You love your idea. You have to, or you won't have the fortitude to make it work. Now it's time to make sure you're not the only one who believes in it. At this stage of the game, test the market by wading in, not jumping in feet first. Do your market research, sample out your product, and launch it in phases. I once had a client who wanted to launch an entire line of products, risking everything she had. Thankfully, she decided to launch only one and received invaluable feedback that probably saved her from financial ruin. No need for this to take years; perform your due diligence, correct course where necessary, and just do it.
7. Don't make empty promises.
Hopefully, your close friends and family, especially your significant other, will back you up on your decision to take this leap. They might be more nervous about it than you are, so it's tempting to make promises you may not be able to keep. Giving your word about things like a short timetable to profits and consistently devoting time to the family will soothe some of their fears and make your life easier--at first. Don't pretend that this life-changing event won't affect your home life and relationships, because it will. The trick is to create "life balance"over the long haul, understanding that there will be times when your life is anything but balanced. Be honest with yourself and others; anything less will only make you a liar, at least for a while. With that said, never lose sight of what's truly important and can never be replaced.
For those of you who have already taken the leap, what do you wish you did differently? Help someone out and share your thoughts and insights here.