Being a successful entrepreneur requires patience, flexibility, dedication and some level of comfort with risk. Back in Business School at Rice, I remember someone asked me about risk. I remember telling them that I was very risk-averse. Guess I was wrong! Since jumping off the cliff of comfortable-know-when-and-where-every-paycheck-is-coming-from employment into the fast, furious and sometimes topsy-turvy world of entrepreneurship back in 2004, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself and what it takes to survive in the world as a business owner. Here are 5 things to consider before you make the leap…
Start a business around what you enjoy
So, yes…you’ve likely heard this tip a million and one times. But it is absolutely true. Owning a business requires more hours out of your day and week than most folks work in their normal jobs. If you are not doing something you love, chances are you’ll learn to hate it very quickly. And that’s an easy way to shorten your entrepreneurial life. Think about your hobbies, passions, and interests. Make a list. Then start thinking about how you might turn your love for one of these into a career. Look for opportunities. Are there other folks who are interested in these things? Is there a need for a service or product related to this interest that isn’t currently filled by another business in your area?
Remember, being an entrepreneur is all about work
People dream of leaving the corporate world behind to launch their own venture. Think of the freedom! You set your own hours…come in when you want, leave when you want. You make the decisions! No one tells you what to do or not do. Oh yeah…the sweet life! Well, while you’re dreaming don’t forget to give yourself a little reality check. If your venture is going to be successful, the weight is squarely on your shoulders to make it successful. This usually entails long hours, difficult decisions, and lots of hard work. Money can be tight, and as a business owner you’ll have a lot of responsibilities to juggle. Relaxing…not so much. Exciting and energizing… absolutely!
But life isn’t all about work
When you start a business, it’s easy to become a work-a-holic. You always feel like there is something you should be doing for your clients or your operations. Remember to take some time out each week to focus on your life, your family, your friends, your health. Join a gym, go for walks, ride your bike…do something to improve your health and reduce your stress. Set up a regular date night with your significant other or friends. Spend quality time with your kids. Attend all local family events. Be involved in your community. And please, have conversations about topics other than your work! Taking time for yourself will help you focus, increase your productivity and help you avoid burnout.
Build a funnel!
Launching a business can be rough! You will be under significant pressure to find clients and begin making sales. Remember, no sales = no income! Networking is important to getting your name out there. We liken it to a funnel…wide at the top, more narrow at the bottom…starting with the community and leading to our services. The more people you meet, business cards you hand out, connections you make…the more folks who know what you do…the wider the top of your funnel. If you make a good impression, those folks will tell their contacts about you…widening your funnel. And as your funnel grows wider, more quality leads should gravitate your way!
Never stop marketing!
Marketing is a great way to expand your funnel quickly. It would be incredibly difficult for you personally to shake hands and meet 10,000 potential customers in one day. But you can do just that using marketing tools such as direct mail, web & print advertising, social and traditional media. A common mistake however, is to ignore marketing when you’re busy. Most small businesses experience peaks and valleys over the course of a year. Sometimes you are slammed with work, other times you can almost hear crickets around the office it’s so quiet. Don’t take your busy times for granted! The best time to market is when you are the busiest. You have less pressure for immediate return, you can try a new approach if you’d like to, you’ve got more money in your budget to expand your outreach, and you can plan your campaign in advance. You may even consider making your marketing purchases in advance and scheduling for the future. Doing so assures no gap in your outreach even when finances get a little tighter. Be consistent.
So, what do you say? Are you ready to jump off the cliff into the world of entrepreneurship yet? Best of luck!