Starting a business is exciting, and when you're laying the groundwork for a new venture while you're still working full time, that excitement can make the wait unbearable. With all the possibilities and passion swirling around in your head, it may be tempting to turn in your two week's notice today so you can get started on building and promoting your business right away, as your own boss.
But making the leap before you've prepared properly is a rookie mistake that could hurt your budding business. To help guide you through the transitional process, Juntae DeLane, founder of the Digital Branding Institute, shared his recommendations for the five steps aspiring entrepreneurs must take before they bid their day job adieu.
1. Ask the Tough Questions
"Building a business is not for the meek," DeLane says, so you have to be prepared to face the realities about the journey you're about to embark on, and it's better to do it sooner than later.
The first question to explore is your "why" for starting a business. When you're faced with the inevitable challenges that come with starting a business, you must be able to remind yourself why this mission is important. You also have to explore the logistics of how you'll manage your business and your business model. Ask questions about your ideal customer, too, DeLane says, and understand the competitive landscape you're entering to be sure you're providing a unique and necessary alternative.
2. Identify Your Own Shortcomings
Nobody is great at everything, and running a business--like raising a child--takes a village. Before you set out on your own, DeLane says, you have to be realistic about which functions you'll be able to fill and which areas you'll need support on. It's not only about leaning into your strengths and acknowledging your weaknesses but recognizing where your time and efforts will be most efficiently used.
For many new business owners, outsourcing financial work is a smart decision, freeing up your time by allowing an accountant, financial adviser, assistant, or a service like FreshBooks to handle invoicing, payments, and other financial processes. If managing logistics is not your strong suit, a virtual or live assistant may be able to assist with efficient scheduling, booking, planning, and organization.
3. Assemble Your Team
You likely already have a network of useful connections from previous jobs, events, alumni programs, and your personal life who can serve as advisers, connectors, and sounding boards. But some of those connections can be lost as you shift jobs or industries, if you don't properly prepare.
"Start merging your offline relationships online," DeLane suggests. "It will add more equity to your digital brand."
Seek out and reconnect with individuals in your network who can help with your transition and provide valuable insights as you create and grow your new business. Connect with current and former colleagues on social networks so you can maintain contact and make a concerted effort to add new connections you meet, so you have an updated digital Rolodex of allies as you start your next chapter.
4. Make a Game Plan
"Business growth is probably the most prioritized metric for new businesses," DeLane says. "It allows business owners to see if they're on track to accomplishing the business objective." But to track your success, you have to define it, and to get there, you have to know what steps to take.
Make a list of the things you want to accomplish and how you'll be able to track when they have been accomplished. Note how you'll keep track of progress, assign or delegate duties, and how you'll face potential challenges that arise. This is also a great time to tap your network, particularly anyone who has "been there," to get their insights on what milestones are worth aiming for, what metrics should be tracked, and what challenges to anticipate.
5. Face the Finances
Building a business is expensive, and income can be slow to come or unpredictable in the early stages. Large financial goals are great, and projections can help map out the path to that goal, but you need to think critically about how and when that income will come in and what will happen if things don't go as planned.
Begin saving early, while you still have your day job, to ensure you can get through a dry patch or a slow building to revenue. Think about any cuts you may need to make to help build that cushion, and what you'll do if you unexpectedly lose a client, have a large expense, or if payments are delayed. Planning for your business's finances not only prepares you for the unexpected but helps ensure you're on the best path for success if things do go as expected.
"You have to budget for what you need to be successful in your business, not to simply sustain," DeLane says.