The U.S. is enjoying the most robust job market the country has experienced in half a century or more. Employers are begging for workers, and opportunities to transition into new careers are growing at an unprecedented rate. In such a booming economy, why would you want to be an entrepreneur?
Most seasoned entrepreneurs would say it’s for one of three reasons: you’re a starry-eyed novice who sees the next Mark Zuckerburg every time you pass a mirror; or you’re a masochist who can’t wait to get the life kicked out of you by the reality of self-employment; or maybe–just maybe–you have a marketable idea you’re passionate about and the commitment to see it done right. Probably everyone toying with entrepreneurship believes they fall into the final category. But do you really? How can you be sure?
It’s important to know the difference between the fantasy of starting a business and the reality of doing so before investing your money, your career, and your family’s financial future in a brand-new endeavor. So what’s the difference between the perception of entrepreneurship and its reality?
Here are nine business tips for the future small business owner to consider before launching a new enterprise.
Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?
Simon Sinek famously told the world to start with why. His advice may seem more esoteric than practical, but starting with why really is the place to begin. Why do you want to found your own business? Is it because you don’t feel like you’re maximizing your potential right now? Maybe a conversation with your boss, not founding a new company, is your answer.
Do you distrust or dislike your supervisor at work? Maybe you need a new job, not a new business to run. Do you dream about spending more time with your kids or your spouse? Maybe asking your boss for the option to put in remote hours or even becoming a stay-at-home parent is right for you.
In each of these instances, entrepreneurship could be a great choice, but it’s not your only choice. And if you are using entrepreneurship as a way out of a difficult situation, it’s likely to prove frustrating and unfruitful over the long term. Only pursue entrepreneurship if you love creating and marketing new products and services and you have the discipline to be your own boss.
Are you asking yourself the tough questions?
Many online articles rely on inspiration to convince you to start your own business. Inspirational language can be helpful, but it can also cause you to overlook or minimize genuine challenges. Ask yourself hard questions.
Do you have the money to feed your family while your business launches? Have you done the market research? Is your product viable in the marketplace? Is your network connected enough and strong enough to provide you with the resources you need to run a successful business?
Answer those questions honestly. Get your entrepreneurial friends to ask you more hard questions you haven’t thought about yet. Talk to experienced people in the field about any concerns they have regarding your business plan.
Most of the time, you can find ways around the speed bumps in your way, but you need to be aware of what might slow down your business in the early days before you launch, not after you’ve sunk everything you have into your idea.
Doing the cool thing vs. doing the marketable thing
If you think your idea is fundamentally awesome, it probably isn’t. Most ideas, frankly, are not unique. In fact, most successful entrepreneurs innovate on a concept already out there. For instance, Allie Webb, who founded Drybar, took the idea of an old-fashioned salon, updated it, and relaunched it for a new audience. Presto! A success story was born. Simple idea, successful business.
Many “cool ideas” get overly complicated or appeal mainly to the founder and his friends. There just isn’t a market for those kinds of concepts. A marketable idea appeals to an identifiable segment of consumers who have both the desire and the capacity to buy the product or service.
“It’s very hard to evaluate our own ideas,” Career coach Penelope Trunk says. “It’s so hard to see when you’re a cliche. It’s hard to see when you’re special. So look for someone to respond immediately with a look of a light bulb going off in their head.”
The scoop on franchising vs. doing your own thing
“Is it good to start your own business from scratch or buy into a franchise?” asks Raad Ahmed, CEO of LawTrades. “The answer to this question will depend on what your personal goals are as a business owner. Either option has advantages and risks associated with it that should be considered before embarking.” Ahmed says a franchise removes the guesswork, for example, but can cut into profits. Your own business creates exciting opportunities, but it also hands you big challenges.
What about you? When you start your business, will you buy a franchise or do your own thing? Both approaches have their pros and cons. If you are going to work as a designer or a writer or if you plan to start a one-person shop, a DIY approach could be best.
But if you expect to sell products to customers, owning a franchise can give you a lot of proven marketing, sales, and product development pieces in a handy, done-for-you kit.
The brand awareness a franchise holds can also be gold for a new business, too. Not all franchises have to cost you an arm and a leg, either. Many entrepreneurs buy Mathnasium+, Subway, Jazzercise, or another well-known franchise for an affordable price. Plus, many banks will provide low-interest small business loans to help entrepreneurs get started in these enterprises.
Is entrepreneurship as hard as people say it is?
Starting your own business can be the most rewarding undertaking of your professional life, but it can also be the most challenging.
Most people who have run an entrepreneurial enterprise successfully say the payoff was worth the pain, but many others abandon their dreams of self employment to return to life in a cubicle. Is that because entrepreneurship is just too hard?
If entrepreneurship were easy, everyone would do it. The fact is that nothing worthwhile in life is truly easy. If you find yourself sacrificing your health, your family, or your spiritual vigor on the altar of your entrepreneurial career, however, then it’s time to find a steady job instead. No business is worth losing your life or your connection to people you love. Thankfully, entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be ridiculously hard.
Most entrepreneurs put in lots of work, ingenuity, and time to build a successful business, but they don’t break their health, finances, or relationships to do so. To avoid burning out, do your work. Plan well in advance, offer a great product or service, find a mentor to help guide you, build a great team, and be patient. Your business will flourish eventually.
Are you in the right business field for you?
Many young entrepreneurs make the mistake of searching for a field that sounds exciting rather than the one they know something about. These potential founders are suffering from the “greener grass syndrome.” Often, the best and most achievable business ideas lie in pedestrian fields. A dry cleaner, a pizza parlor, or a mechanic shop is every bit an entrepreneurial endeavor, just as much as a new app is and much more likely to succeed.
Some successful new ideas simply market existing products to a new demographic. Some observers, for instance, say that senior citizens compose the next big tech market. While new technology and older adults don’t often come to mind together, seniors possess both the need for new technology and the money to buy it.
They are also as technologically savvy–or nearly so–as their children and grandchildren. If you work in technology or sell products to senior citizens, you don’t have to switch fields to bring a tech product to market in an innovative way. You just have to cross the wires differently.
A new study of Norwegian entrepreneurs that was published in the Wall Street Journal suggested that young male entrepreneurs who stayed in their dads’ fields were more likely to succeed than their peers. These young men enjoyed the benefits of their dads’ mentorship, networks, and knowledge.
As business owners, these young entrepreneurs could rely on years of dinner table conversations to give them important knowledge of how their fields worked. While you might not want to stay in your mom or dad’s field, it is a good idea to pick an industry you know well and one where you can easily find a network and a mentor. Doing so may greatly increase your chances of success.
Turning a side hustle into a career
Starting a side hustle and eventually moving it to center stage can be an effective way to get a new business off the ground. Writing for Medium, entrepreneur Nicolas Cole says, “The people who actually turn their side hustles into main gigs are the ones who work after work, who stay up late, who grind on the weekends, and who say ‘No‘ to things that are fleeting rewards but long-term distractions.”
Cole goes on to list four other ways people can turn side hustles into serious businesses. These ways include only investing time in worthwhile projects, mastering just one or two skill sets, collaborating with others, and saving everything you earn over the first few months.
If you choose to start a side hustle first–which can be a great way to go–make sure you use the side-hustle phase to expand your network, save your money, and delineate your goals. Fully relying on your former hobby for a full-time income takes ingenuity, skill, planning, and a lot of professional allies.
Who shouldn’t be an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship can offer a great life, but it isn’t the best life for everyone. If you are having reservations about your entrepreneurial dreams, take those concerns seriously. It can be tempting to look at successful entrepreneurs writing on LinkedIn or profiled in INC and want what they have. But you also have to be willing to invest what they did to get what they got.
If you don’t have the time, the money, the emotional fortitude, the mature idea, or the deep-down desire to start your own business, it’s okay. Go to work, satisfy your boss, go home to the people you love, and lead a happy life. Enjoy your regular paycheck and the fact that you aren’t responsible for everything that goes south in your company.
But if entrepreneurship is the only life for you, then the best advice is …
Go for it!
It’s true that entrepreneurship offers many opportunities for travel, self direction, and financial success. But it also means you stay connected nearly all the time, need enormous amounts of self discipline, take huge financial risks, and often go a long time without seeing your needle move a whole lot.
Can you live with that? If your honest answer is “no,” don’t feel bad. Focus on the things you love to do instead. But if entrepreneurship is the only thing that will satisfy your career goals and scratch the itch to pilot your own life, then maybe it’s time to make the leap.
The perception of being an entrepreneur is often very different from the reality. Prospective entrepreneurs can be in for quite a shock when they learn it’s not as easy or as glamorous as they expected it to be. Successful founders put out a lot of hustle to start a successful business. Being an entrepreneur is a job like any other, and it is one of the most challenging pursuits out there. That doesn’t mean you should avoid it, however.
If starting and managing your own business is a goal for you and if you’ve given every facet of the challenge careful thought, then go for it. May you succeed beyond your wildest imagination!