Initially, it may seem to the inexperienced that running your own business would afford you plenty of financial freedom and clear out your schedule so you can focus more on other things. This idea of being “the boss” and relaxing while others work for you and the money just roles in is what causes most entrepreneurs to fail really quickly. Entire books can be written about the psychology behind this phenomenon, but let’s just say that being greedy, delusional and lazy is the worst combination of traits for an aspiring businessman to have. You’ll need to sit down and ask yourself a few very important questions if you want to avoid grossly overestimating your capabilities and coming up with an unsustainable business model that will leave you buried in debt.
1. Do you have a somewhat original and marketable idea?
The precursor for any sort of business venture is an idea. Good ideas are born out of understanding the principles of supply and demand, knowledge of the latest market trends, a desire to stand out from the crowd and plenty of ambition. An entrepreneur’s vision may not be entirely novel, but it should be somewhat unique.
If your plan looks something like this:
- Step One – Open clothing store
- Step Two – Make a ton of money
- Step Three – Live out the rest of my days without any worries
Then it is safe to say that you don’t have what it takes to survive your first year, let alone earn enough money to live comfortably and grow your business. A good plan would look more like this:
- Step One – Research the local market to check if clothing store is a valid option
- Step Two – Market research shows that there is a lack of elegant and stylish plus-sized clothing options in town, even though there are plenty of plus-sized shoppers, which means a shop catering to these needs would be well-received
- Step Three – Look for creators, designers and skilled labor that could help you produce your own clothing
- Step Three – There is enough demand for the product that you can manufacture at a reasonable cost with the right tools, and the skilled labor would be willing to work for a reasonable salary, it’s time to determine a budget
- Step Four – With the available budget we can hire a small, but skilled and dedicated team, buy the necessary equipment, secure a location and have enough to cover the costs for the first six months even if we make no money
- Step Five – Find a good location that fits the planned budget
- Step Six – Find the right vendors and try to negotiate a good deal
- Step Seven – Fix up the place and set up shop
- Step Six – Evaluate the time it will take to break even and formulate a coherent and realistic business plan
Make sure that you can bring something new to the table, putting a unique spin on tried and true ideas and basing your decisions on supply and demand in your local area.
2. How good are you at what you do?
Want to open a restaurant or coffee shop? Then you better have some experience in those industries and make sure you are able to cook up a tasty meal or at least partner up with people who can. Want to open a clothing store? You’ll need at least some working knowledge of how things work and plenty of people skills. You may be more of a thinker and organizer than a doer, but you’ll need to make sure that you are one hell of a negotiator. There are many avenues and a huge variety of niche markets that a successful entrepreneur can focus on—as long as he or she possess the right skill sets and is confident in his or her abilities, they can go on to create a great career. However, you’ll want to be objective when judging your own skill level and capabilities if you want to avoid becoming overambitious and burning through your budget.
3. Do you have enough courage, motivation, determination and focus?
There are plenty of characteristics in common among successful entrepreneurs and it is clear that it takes a certain kind of person to succeed in the business world. Now, you may have some of these qualities without being aware of it, simply because you were never in a position that required you to use them—you won’t know how you handle a situation until you find yourself right in the middle of it. That being said, you’ll need to dig deep within yourself and try to find enough courage, determination, discipline and a laser-like focus on the goals you set. If you don’t have at least some of these traits in spades, you will be better off looking for a different career.
4. Can you stay level-headed under stress?
As an entrepreneur, you will need to take certain risks, and you’ll find yourself far out of your comfort zone a lot of the time. A big part of running your own business is being constantly under pressure and dealing with tons of problems as they present themselves. You will need to prioritize and deal with the most pressing matters first, and in the beginning, it can be like a barrage of things going wrong and situations not playing out quite according to plan. The ability to keep your head cool under stress and think clearly is incredibly important, as you will need to improvise on the spot, make quick decisions and choose between the lesser of two evils. If you lose your temper too often and make impulsive decisions, you won’t last very long. Luckily, this is one aspect you can work on and improve through exercises like yoga. A quick boxing session on the heavy bag or going for a swim can be a good way to manage stress and blow of some steam, so keeping in shape can be beneficial.
5. Are you prepared to stay focused and work every single day?
There are no sick days, weekends or quiet afternoons when you are an aspiring entrepreneur. Many people complain about the soul-crushing monotony and lack of career options of their nine-to-five jobs, but once you are on your own, you’ll come to miss the simplicity of such jobs. You work during the morning, then you come home and kick back, and you have your weekends free to do whatever you want—even if you bring your work home occasionally, it really isn’t that big of a deal. Running your own business means that you will be on vacation with your family and instead of going swimming, you end up setting up shop in a corner and staring at your laptop the entire afternoon. That’s if you have enough time for a vacation in the first place. Countless hours will be spent working on different ideas and projects, sometimes up to 12–14 hours a day. You need to be passionate and dedicated if you are to survive the sheer workload on top of the stress and sleep deprivation.
6. Do you have a good level of leadership and management skills?
When you are your own boss, there is no one to look to for leadership and advice, and no one to help you manage your employees. For a small business, it can be beneficial to look for freelancers and outsource some of the work instead of permanently employing a large team. Outsourcing can have different effects on your business as well as the local economy, but it is generally a fairly safe bet that if you find the right people, it can save you a lot of money. It’s here that your management, negotiation and people skills need to kick in. Managing a small and dedicated team plus a few freelancers, all while keeping your finances in check and handling any unforeseen setbacks takes a lot of concentration and the ability to jump from one task to another quickly and efficiently. Make sure you work on these crucial skills before making any serious plans for the future.
It is said that the path to success is covered in the sweat and tears of those who weren’t afraid to give it their all and make the necessary sacrifices. Although the business playing field is wide and open, there are some fairly strict guidelines for developing winning strategies, so it is best to take plenty of time to think about your plans for the future before committing to a serious, life-changing project.