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12 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Quit Your Job to Start Your Own Business

12 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Quit Your Job to Start Your Own Business

If you want to live a passionate life of freedom, quit your job and start your own business. Escaping the limitations of 9–5 is the only way to experience true freedom. But to be sure your transition will be successful, ask yourself these 12 questions before you take the leap.

1. Are you willing to do whatever it takes?

To start your own business you have to be willing to do whatever it takes. Sometimes that’s not fun: it’s inconvenient and you can’t do what you really want to. The willingness to do whatever it takes comes from a deep commitment to your business that all successful entrepreneurs must have.

2. Are you willing to adapt your approach often?

The only way for a business to fail is to stop adapting. If a product doesn’t sell, keep adapting, modifying, changing and improving it until it does. You might change its color, change its price, change who you sell it to or change its stated purpose. You may need to change the product, change the service or change the product into a service. Keep changing until you get it right. Failure only comes when you stop doing this.

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3. Are you focused enough to start your own business?

Focus worked for Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, so it will probably work pretty well for you. There are only two resources you put into creating a business: time and money. Even Warren and Bill have a limited amount of both. So do you. To successfully start your own business, you have to pour all you have into it. Your business needs as much of your resources as you can possibly give it, so pour it all in. Don’t spread your resources among several small things; none of them will get enough of what they need to succeed.

4. Are you willing to give up some things in the short term?

The only time you should give up things that are important to you is when giving them up will allow you to have more of them in the future. This is one of those times. There may be no vacations for a year, or two, or three. There will be way less TV. There will be less time with your kids, friends and family. If you want the increased time and the increased quality of time (which comes from money) in the future, you must give up some of it now. Do it for your future.

5. Are you ready for the most intense psychotherapy you’ve ever undergone?

Aspiring entrepreneurs often believe they will learn about business plans, marketing, accounting and business models. You will, but that will be small compared to the self-discovery process you will go through. You’ll learn about your strengths, weaknesses and everything in between. Starting a business is a very personal process and one that will test your limits and make you realize you had capabilities you never even thought possible. You’ll also probably cry a few times.

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6. Are you able to listen without judging or evaluating?

When you start your own business, you must develop your listening skills to a level beyond what you ever thought was possible. You have to listen to your customers and prospects so closely you can even hear what they don’t say. You need a level of understanding of your customers that you can’t get unless you listen to every word they say and understand their needs and aspirations better than they do.

7. Are you ready to fire your ego?

Your first dirty job as CEO of your own business is to give your ego the pink slip. If you don’t fire your ego, it will be the worst employee on your team. Your ego makes you think you’re right all the time and won’t let you objectively consider all the relevant facts. When you start your own business, you have to be humble and able to consider all information (remember number 6) without feeling threatened by the possibility of being wrong. Ego, pack up your cubicle!

8. Are you ready to accept feedback?

As an entrepreneur, you have to be open and willing to accept the information you receive as feedback. Then you have to take the feedback and use it to make your business, product or service better. You can’t do this if your ego is standing guard — defending you as perfect and all-knowing (good thing you fired it in number 7). You have to be able to accept the feedback and realize that, perhaps nobody wants to buy your little blue widget. However, if you’ve been listening (there’s number 6 again), you’ll know they would buy it at a higher price if you just painted it red and added googly eyes.

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9. Are you confident enough to ignore feedback?

Yes, this is the opposite of number 8. Sorry about that. But as an entrepreneur, you’ll have to confront conflicting information often. While you do have to be willing to accept feedback, you also have to have enough confidence in your vision for your business that you can ignore feedback as well. One person says emphatically the widget must be blue. Another says with equal emphasis that it must be red. They have equal credibility. It’s your company, your vision and you get to decide: you must decide. Confidently make a decision and let your vision for the business guide you. If you make the wrong decision that’s OK. Speaking of that, we probably need to talk about failure.

10. Are you cool with failure?

The media loves failure. They love to see businesses, celebrities and entrepreneurs fall on their face because it makes great news. They’ve convinced us that “failure” is a big, catastrophic event and (worst of all) the end. It’s not. Failing is just part of the process. It’s just another step toward success. The important thing is to never believe that failure is the end. Just get back up and keep going.

11. Are you willing to take full responsibility for whatever happens?

My high-school English teacher would cringe because each of these headings started with “Are you,” but that’s intentional. When you start your own business, you must believe that everything that happens, good or bad, is because of you. Blaming any other person, entity, organization, situation or the weather will doom your business because it takes you off the hook. It gives you someone else to blame, which your ego will temporarily enjoy, but in the longer term it will spell the end of your business. Because by giving away responsibility, you’ve given away your power. Keep your responsibility and keep your power.

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12. Do you care about starting your business more than anything?

You’ll never be able to start your own business unless you care about it a whole bunch. That doesn’t mean there can’t be other things you care about — there should be. But your business has to be up in your top two or three. If it’s not important enough, the daily grind and to-do lists will push your business to the bottom of the heap and you’ll never give it the focus it needs to thrive.

Business plans, market analysis, financial cushion and all that are great, but none of that matters if you can’t say, “Yes!” with ten exclamation points to each of these things. The happiest and most successful people in the world are entrepreneurs and that’s because they have answered a euphoric yes to these questions and created a business and a life they are passionate about.

If you answer no to any of these questions, it doesn’t mean you can’t start a business, it just means you’re not ready. Keep reading, studying, dreaming and hang out with some successful entrepreneurs. You’ll get ready.

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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