So you want to start a business?
9 Things to Consider Before You Become “A Boss”
Before I officially launched Swayed in 2005, numerous people told me, “You should just start your own business.” While the encouraging words were appreciated, and certainly helped my confidence, the thought of making that leap was pretty daunting at first. What would I do if wasn’t billable? How do I attract new business? Do I need an accountant? Lawyer? License? If I’d listened to all the negative thoughts or let my fears get the better of me, I wouldn’t have done it. Regardless of the risks and list of what-ifs, I took the plunge. It’s been a whirlwind of new experiences, meeting new and interesting people and life lessons. Ten years later – I’m grateful to say — Swayed survives! It’s been a blast, but hasn’t always been easy and I’ve learned so much along the way…
What’s it like to own a business?
I’m often asked that. Some people ask with excitement and energy as if they expect me to tell them it’s magical and everyday is filled with rainbows and unicorns. Others ask with a bit of judgement as if they’d expect my days to filled with paperwork and aspirin bottles. To be honest, it’s a bit of both.
The truth is entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. There are a few important things you should ask yourself before you hang an open sign:
- Am I a good multi-tasker? Yes, you’ll be the boss, but unless you have a budget to hire help right away, you’ll have to wear a lot of hats. On any given day you may find yourself as the receptionist, human resources, IT person, maintenance person or accounting department. Sometimes you’ve just gotta roll up your sleeves.
- Do people think of me as an organized self-starter? No one is going to be there to remind you to go the conference room at 10:00. If you miss a meeting, that could mean missing profit, or a ding on your reputation. Make lists, set reminders on your phone, keep your calendar up to date, or do whatever makes sense for you to stay organized. It’s also up to you to figure things out, which often means researching and learning how to do things on the fly.
- Can I stay committed and dedicate the time? Be ready to work – a lot. I worked, and still do at times, 60-80 hour work weeks. I’ve pulled all-nighters to meet deadlines and I’ve worked on holidays and when I was sick. There is no PTO when you own your own business, and unless you have employees, there are no co-workers to cover your tasks for the day. A lost day can mean lost profit.
- Is my family and/or partner supportive? Discuss your goals with those who’ll be affected by your changing schedule and monetary commitment. Agree on what’s comfortable for everyone in terms of time dedicated to home and business life. Set expectations for each person’s contributions be it time, budgeting or even moral support. Review your agreement frequently to be sure it still makes sense as your business changes or grows.
- Can I balance work and home life well? When you’re responsible for the bottom line, it’s so tempting to work, and work and then work some more. This may be OK if you don’t need to see the light of day or can’t stand socializing, but I don’t recommend it. Even if you LOVE working, it’s good to get out and take a break. Stepping away gives you time to recharge and think about things outside the business. Often I find getting away from my computer helps me be way more productive when I come back to it.
- Can I stick to a budget? Knowing what you can expect to make and spend in the fiscal year is imperative. Having your expenses outlined and goals set will help you stay on track and set a path for growth. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, consult an account or business coach for help.
- Have I factored in marketing and promotional costs? Consider your competitors, both small and large, to understand how you’ll need to stand out and attract business. Often entrepreneurs have a great product or service to offer, but the target market is not being reached. Unless you’re building a “Field of Dreams,” they won’t come. Bottom line – you’ll need to advertise. (Shameless plug for Swayed Creative here)
- Am I good at saving money? You may be surprised at how frequently unexpected expenses arise. What happens if you’re suddenly awarded a huge contract and you need to hire help or buy more product? What if your computer breaks and you need to buy a new one TODAY? Either way, having access to a savings fund or line of credit may give you peace of mind when you need a little back-up.
- Am I good a cheerleader? Now, I don’t mean can you stand on a sideline in a skirt yelling “RAH” at the top of your lungs. But, you should be able to motivate yourself, those you hire and maybe even your loved-ones. Keeping a positive attitude makes all the difference in the world. So when the printer breaks, your order doesn’t arrive on time, an employee fails to show up and you have a million personal tasks to get to – you take a deep breath, smile and say, “That’s why I’m the BOSS.”
If you said yes to all of these things, you’ll likely make a great entrepreneur. I wish you all the best in your new adventure!