Let's say you’ve been working in the corporate world for a while and are ready for a change. Instead of asking for a promotion or a division transfer, you are considering something more drastic…going out on your own and starting a new venture.
This can be an incredibly exciting thought, especially if you’ve been burning the midnight oil lately, but there are several things to consider before making the leap.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Are you truly passionate about what you are planning to do?
Sitting in a cubicle day after day, you may fantasize about the glamorous life of a entrepreneur—vacationing in Paris while conducting business on your smartphone—but, according Jon Picoult, founder and principal of Watermark Consulting, a business advisory firm based in Simsbury, Connecticut, fantasy can differ from reality.
“It is important that you feel strongly and passionate about what you are trying to build,” he says. “It can get old very quickly.”
According to T. Dan Nichols, a business expert based in Royal Oak, Michigan, and author of Getting Unstuck, passion is essential to the success of a startup.
“Ask yourself: Would you do it if there wasn’t any money involved?” he says. “You need to be excited about it when you wake up in the morning. If you’re not, someone else out there will kick your butt.”
Have you tested your idea with any success?
Before quitting your day job, consider spending time before or after hours on your idea. Try selling your product or service before making the big leap.
“There is risk associated with leaving the security of a corporate job and going out on your own,” Picoult says. “Try testing it out first; it is a great way to know if the market will respond well to your idea.”
Is your family prepared for the change?
While this question may be a little touchy-feely, it is also incredibly important. You may be jumping out of your skin at the idea of starting a business—while your partner is secretly wrought with worry. Try reconciling the two lines of thought before diving in.
“Starting your own business will affect your family emotionally and financially,” Nichols says. “You won’t be collecting a check any more, and you will likely (especially in the beginning) be working 24/7.”
Are you ready to wear multiple hats?
So you love making desserts and want to open a cupcake shop. You’re idea of a perfect day may be rolling dough and strategically placing sprinkles atop a beautiful mountain of icing—but these cherished activities may turn out to be less than 10 percent of what you actually do.
“In the corporate world, there is a lot of infrastructure that people can rely on,” Picoult says. “There are entire sales departments, distribution departments, marketing departments—when you are working in that environment, you have the benefit of capitalizing on those resources.
“When you are on your own, you have to do them all yourself. You need to operate not only at a strategic level, but also in the weeds. If you are not prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, launching a business is probably not for you.”
Are you bringing a unique product or service to the market?
Differentiation is vital to the success of a startup.
But what if you want to open a CPA firm—something that is a dime a dozen?
“I love my CPA and she does bring something different to the table—passion,” Nichols says. “She is curious about what she does and I can tell she likes being a CPA. If she doesn’t understand something, she is excited to look it up. That is a differentiator.”
Do you have an emergency fund?
I’m not talking about a few hundred bucks under your mattress. Starting a business takes big money, and it can take longer than you think to get your bearings.
“I recommend saving at least six months of expenses,” Picoult says
Nichols advises saving even more.
“I think you have to expect not to make any money for at least 18 to 24 months,” he says. “This means you may have to keep your day job for a while.”
Have you developed a well-thought-out plan?
This one may seem obvious, but according to Nichols, many people jump into entrepreneurship before thinking things through.
“A lot of people will start a business with an idea, a little inspiration, and a few thousand bucks; this is analogous to a pilot flying without a flight plan,” he says. “Make sure to develop a business plan.”
Can you go with the flow?
Chances are, things are not going to go exactly how you planned the first, second or even tenth time you try them.
“When you start a business, no matter how organized you are, there is a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants dynamic,” Picoult says. “People who are able to adapt quickly will work best in that kind of situation. If you are paralyzed by the thought of thinking on your feet, you may want to rethink the entrepreneur route.”