Business ownership isn’t for everyone. If you’re reading this document, you likely feel owning a business is a possibility for you. If you ultimately decide business ownership isn’t for you, consider that a victory. The decision to not start a business can save you significant money, heartache, time and stress. By no means is it a failure if you decide business ownership isn’t for you. For many, NOT starting a business could be the smartest decision they make.
But what if you’re on the fence? Do you find yourself asking if you have what it takes to be a business owner? Do you know if you have the traits to be a success in business? If you ask yourself these questions you are not alone. So what are the answers to those questions? There are no perfect answers but many common themes exist to help you make an informed decision.
Important Questions to Ask Yourself
Are you a risk taker? It doesn’t matter if you like to sky dive or tackle extreme sports, but can you make decisions when the outcome is not guaranteed? Do you struggle when situations are uncertain? Are you hesitant to trust your gut instincts? If you answered yes to any of these questions you need to think hard about whether you can accept the risks associated with being a business owner. There are no guarantees in any business decision, so being comfortable with risk is essential.
Do you have to work on teams to do your best work? While teamwork is important to most good organizations, starting a business requires decisions that are many times made in isolation. In the early stages of business ownership there are generally no committees, review boards, task teams and other decision-making mechanisms. Many times it’s just you, the business owner, who has to make a decision and accept full accountability.
Can you convince others? If you have an idea in your head, can you verbalize it? Are you comfortable “selling” your idea and convincing others that your business can work? If you struggle with public speaking or talking with strangers, this could be a challenge to your business. The inability to comfortably explain your business to others could be a significant barrier to success.
Are you creative? This isn’t about being able to write a song or draw at a level beyond stick figures. Rather, do you subscribe to the notion that there is more than one way to skin a cat? Can you come up with solutions to problems that others may not consider? If so, you may have the creative thinking it takes to be a business owner. Conversely, if you subscribe to the notion of “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” then creative problem-solving could be a challenge for your business.
Do you have support systems? Owning a business can create feelings of isolation, but know that you don’t have to go it alone. Do you have friends or family that would be supportive of you? If so, reach out to them. You don’t have to ask them to be part of your business, but simple adult interaction will remind you that there are things outside of your business that matter. If you don’t have friends, family or a mentor to lean on, make it a priority to attend area networking events so you can meet others who understand what business ownership is about. You’ll likely find a familiarity exists amongst entrepreneurs regardless of what businesses they are in.
Important Considerations as You Get Started
Don’t feel the need to fully answer all of the questions in this section. Much of this will be addressed when writing your business plan. However, start thinking about the questions below and if you struggle answering many of them, take a step back and think about answers to these questions before moving on.
Why am I starting a business? This may seem like an obvious question, but what are the true reasons? Is it money? Independence? The need to try? A revolutionary idea?
What will my product or service be? Clearly define what your product or service will be and why people would pay for it.
How will I be different from other businesses? If your business will be like many others, how will you earn revenue? Consider how to do something different to separate from your competitors. Will your product be better? Will you offer better service? Are you offering a unique solution to a problem? Do you have a revolutionary idea? Can you do what everyone else does but do it for less? The important thing is to think about how to separate from your competition.
What competition exists? Odds are you will have no shortage of competition. Consider who they are, where they are and how you can beat them.
Do I have the resources needed to get started? Do you need money? Staff? Expertise? A retail space? Connections to the right people?
How much money do I need? Virtually all businesses need money, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is all you need. Money can help you get started but if there are fundamental flaws in your business plan, the money will run out and you’ll be left wondering what happened. To fully understand the amount of money you will need, be sure to build and refine your plan in as much detail as possible.
When do you expect to make a profit? This is different for every business, but with typical upfront costs most business fail to show a profit in the early months after launch.
Can I cover my living expenses until I earn a consistent salary? If not, how will you live? Be careful not to make business decisions with only short-term needs in mind.
Will I need a loan? If you do, where will you get a loan? A bank? A microlender? Friends or family?
Do I need to quit my job to do this? Many successful businesses were launched while the founders maintained a full-time job and worked to generate enough revenue to ultimately leave their job. On the other hand, some businesses don’t offer that opportunity, so you’ll need to work your new operation 100% of the time.
Can I start my business from home or will I need to find a location? Many times this is dependent on the type of business you will be running. If you plan to work from a home location, make sure to check local zoning laws to avoid potential problems with your local municipality.