Thinking about running your own business?
By Katrina Park
There are many benefits to becoming an entrepreneur. But it isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for an easy road, then running your own business won’t be for you. It’s funny how so many people start their own business thinking it will give them more freedom and flexibility, well it doesn’t, certainly not in the early years anyway. In fact, I’ve never worked harder and longer than I did in those early years.
Starting a business is a lot like becoming a parent. It will require constant nurturing and supervision and you will never stop thinking about it. Not only do you have to prepare for your start-up emotionally and financially, but you have to be committed to its constant needs until it is mature enough to hum along on its own. And even then (much like a child) it will always need you in some capacity, no matter how old it gets.
To decide whether to start your own business, you need to take a good hard look not just at the industry you want to conquer, but also at your own skills and psychological DNA/mental makeup.
It’s a process I went through. Working in a fiercely competitive field (recruitment), I knew I could work for one of the large agencies that dominates the majority of the industry or strike out on my own. I chose the latter – to start my own business.
It was absolutely the right decision for me, and I’ve never looked back (though there are definitely days I feel otherwise, and wish I was an employee again without the burden and worries that go along with running your own business). So I want to reiterate that it’s not for everyone. Over the last 15 years I’ve had the chance to call my own shots, make my own decisions, follow my own vision and strategy. I’ve seen what it takes to last and succeed. And I’ve made my fair share of mistakes along the way and learnt a lot of valuable life lessons. I’ve also seen fellow entrepreneurs come and go, succeed and fail.
Here are some of the most important factors to consider in making your decision as to whether it’s the right path for you:-
Passion for your product or service
The reality is that the start-up phase is stressful. You will find yourself questioning whether you’ve made the right decision, especially when the hours are long and the initial profits (if any) are lean. As the business owner, you’re also chief salesperson for your company. Your enthusiasm for your product or service— whether it’s clothing or top-notch tax preparation or in my case recruitment — is often the difference that wins customers, lands deals and attracts investors. It’s unwise to start down the path of entrepreneurship unless you’ve got a real passion that will get you through rough patches and keep you interested long after the initial enthusiasm has faded.
What is my tolerance for risk?
If you’re risk-averse, entrepreneurship probably isn’t the right path for you. Whether it’s quitting your day job or signing a lease on a new space, nothing about starting a business is for the faint of heart. You have to “be willing to jump off the cliff and figure out how to fly on the way down.” Even with the right amount of passion and hunger to launch a thousand ventures, you could find any number of circumstances hastening your failure. There’s no guarantee of success, or even a steady income. If you’re risk-averse, entrepreneurship probably isn’t the right path for you.
Am I willing to take on numerous responsibilities?
If juggling many roles doesn’t suit you, entrepreneurship probably won’t either. While a corporate employee focuses on a special skill or role within the larger corporation, a business owner must wear many hats and contribute everything to the business. Solo entrepreneurs in particular must be versatile and adaptable and play a number of roles, from salesperson to bookkeeper to people management and debt collector. If juggling many roles doesn’t suit you, entrepreneurship probably won’t, either. It’s more important than ever for business owners to have a good working knowledge of their companies’ finances. While you will undoubtedly learn much on this topic from getting your hands dirty, the more knowledge you have in advance, the better prepared you’ll be.
Confidence in building relationships
Part of the irony of going off on your own is that, in many ways, it can require you to be even better at building relationships.
To find the best people to work with in every aspect of your business, from suppliers to expert advisers, you’ll have to be confident and comfortable reaching out. I love doing this. Developing real connections with people is also a cornerstone in building trust and respect with customers.
The independence of controlling your own professional destiny is a great potential result of starting a business. But it takes a village to get you there.
Am I good at making decisions?
No one else is going to make them for you when you own your own business. The buck stops with you. Consider how you might handle these early decisions: Do I work from home or do I lease office space? Do I hire employees? Do I pursue high-end clients or sell to the masses? How should I advertise and market? Do I borrow money? Do I use my entire savings? What technology do I need? Keep in mind that the decision-making process only gets more complicated as time goes on, once you have employees or clients depending on you. The choices you make can lead to success or downfall, so you must feel confident in your ability to make the right call.
Passion for learning and growth
To succeed on your own, you have to constantly build and update your skillset and knowledge bank. You never stop learning. You need to be aware of the trends that affect your industry and your market. You also need to learn what it takes to run a business, from finance to technology to growth strategies to hiring the best employees and suppliers. This process never ends, because new ways of doing business keep emerging.
So being an entrepreneur means signing up for a professional life filled with learning, every day. That’s why you need a genuine passion for it. If you view learning new information and skills as a chore, then entrepreneurship isn’t for you.
You also need to have a healthy amount of humility, resilience and persistence and a burning desire to always challenge yourself to do better.
Motivation beyond money
It takes a great deal of time and energy, and even greater risks, to build a company. The idea of one day running an empire or selling your business for a huge sum of money generally won’t be enough to sustain you through all that work. You need a much deeper sense of purpose.
If you have this, it will serve as essential fuel. I’m profit-minded enough to make sure my company is financially healthy and sustainable but I’m ultimately driven far more by love for the work itself. It’s what gets me going and out of bed each day.
No matter what field you’re considering, it’s only worth starting your own business if your love for it is genuine and real.
Ability to handle stress
You need a toughness and resilience to get you through the challenging and difficult times, of which there will be many. Every stage of business growth presents its own unique challenges so the pressure and constant learning is always there.
Ask yourself how good you are at handling stress. Try to think through stressful situations that may arise and how you would react. Speak with business owners about their most stressful times. Make sure you have the courage and strength to get through similar challenges.
Will I be able to avoid burnout?
Working seven days a week, losing touch with friends, abandoning old hobbies and interests and not making time for family can quickly lead to burnout in the midst of starting up— and ultimately to business failure. Eventually your creativity, enthusiasm and energy will be sapped if you don’t find good habits to enable and maintain work/life balance. For example, these days I typically don’t work on weekends, and I make more time for exercise and socialising with family and friends (and do school pick-ups and drop-offs when I can).
I sometimes wonder if I will ever return to being an employee and working for someone else again. But I think once you take the jump it’s hard to go back. The rewards can be great. So if you think you have what it takes, then go for it! You may well surprise yourself and find that it’s exactly what you’re made and destined for.
Take some time to mull over these questions, do some soul-searching, and then if you think you have what it takes, do it!