The US and, probably, the world are filled with millions of people who dream of owning their own business. However, when it comes to finally taking the plunge and doing it, a much smaller group of people actually make the move. This is not a judgement on those who don’t. It’s not for everyone. Personally, it took me a long time (over 25 years) and the loss of a job to get me off the sidelines. Inertia was my roadblock; that and the fact that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. For many, they have the same issue. For others it is the lack of financing or the realization that their dream or idea is not capable of being scaled to the point of providing a living for them. Still others just decide it is not worth the risk. All of those are OK. For those of you that are about ready to take that leap, here are some thoughts that may push you one way or the other. These come from the experiences of first year business owners.
Talent and Determination Only Take You So Far
In many cases, having a particular talent like repairing cars, building houses, making cupcakes or fitness training drive us into our own business. Then, we put our heart and soul (i.e., time) into making it grow and become profitable. However, none of us can do everything in the business. Where to turn? The answers are closer than you think. We all know people. They all know other people. Somewhere in that network are resources that you can tap into for help with areas that are not your strength. First, identify those weaknesses (yes, I said it) and then ask for help. The second was my toughest step. As it turned out, a lot of people were mentors to me, but they didn’t really know it. I got little tips from a lot of places instead of leaning on one person.
You Will Need to Adapt to The Market
If you were wise, you wrote a business plan before you started your business. It’s been written that nobody plans to fail; they just fail to plan. That said, business plans cannot be something you write once and toss in a drawer never to be seen again. They must be reviewed and adjusted based on the market place; primarily feedback you receive from your customers. Should you do everything they recommend/request? Heck no. The customer is always right…..except when they are not. You should, however, take ever suggestion into consideration. Examine the cost and ROI of each idea. In the end some will make good business sense. Some will not. That is up to you to decide. No business stays the same over time. The longer you are in business, the more you will need to adjust. Change products. Change marketing methods. Change personnel. Improvise, adapt and overcome. That is the secret to longevity for your business.
Do NOT Sell Yourself Short
This might be the biggest single mistake that entrepreneurs make. They don’t charge enough for their products and services. When I bought my business, part of my business plan was to compete on service and quality. That, necessarily, precluded me from competing on price. We let hundreds of jobs go due to pricing over the years. That was a strategic choice and we stood by it day in and day out. Charge a fair price for what you do; fair to you and fair to your clients. We weren’t the most expensive and we weren’t the cheapest. Find your price point where you aren’t working at full tilt just to break even. Know your market value. Know your costs. Price accordingly. It’s equal parts science and art. You will need to adapt from time to time based on the market (do your best not to go downward).
You Will Never Work So Hard in Your Life and Love It
I’ve had a few people tell me, “It must be great to own your own business. You can take time off whenever you want!” All I can do is laugh and tell them the truth: I’ve never worked so many hours in my life. To which they just stare at me with their jaws wide open. The other part of that statement is that I never had any trouble getting up and going to work. It was a labor of love. Every entrepreneur that I have known or worked for felt the same way. In many ways the business defined them. Vacations will be few and far between for a while. If you and your significant other can handle that, dive in. If not, it may be best to continue being an employee for someone else. Either way is OK. Just know what you are signing up for.
Work Life Balance Can Be Hard to Find
As I mentioned above, your business can be a labor of love. The risk in that is that other parts of your life may suffer. Are you married? Do you have kids that are busy with activities year around? Can they handle your not being present (physically or mentally)? Often times, this is the tipping point between hanging up your own shingle or holding off. When is your family ready? Even when you all collectively decide you are ready, there has to be balance. Just like you wrote a business plan, I suggest writing a “Work/Life Balance Plan.” Commit to certain vacations and other events that are inviolable. Maybe you like to volunteer at your church or other organization. Find a way to NOT give that up. These things complete you and refresh your mind. For me, the time was not right until our children were grown and out of the house. My wife was busy with here career, too. We agreed that vacation was not an option, it was a requirement. Our church and our relationship had to be on equal footing with the business (in fact, they came slightly ahead of the business in reality). Find your balance. Find your success.
To be direct, there will be struggles. How you handle them will determine your level of success and longevity. Stick-to-it-iv-ness has helped many a business owner when talent wasn’t enough. Let me repeat: there will be struggles. You may even fail and have to start over. If you want it it badly enough and believe in what you are doing, keep pressing forward. When you hit the bumps, be willing to work/suffer through them. Lead your people, if you have any, and show them you are confident that the business will get through the issues. Make the changes that are needed. Persistence can overcome a lot.