Starting your own business is hard. I think it’s really, really hard. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t do it all over again if I had to, but I think it helps to be realistic. Note I did not say pessimistic, nor am I telling you it can’t be done, I’m just saying be prepared.
So, do you have what it takes? Following is a quiz that my friend Merri Jill Finstrom of HUTdogs and I came up with. In fact, we would like to unofficially try and coin the practice of “co-blogging.”
What is co-blogging? According to me it’s an idea expounded upon by two bloggers, each stating their own opinion on a particular subject. For example, I am posting this quiz about starting your own business and my thoughts on some or all of the answers. Then, my friend Merri Jill is going to post the same quiz and her thoughts. Because we are co-bloggers, you will be able to ping pong back and forth between our sites and get not one, but two entrepreneurs’ perspectives on starting their own business. Now, let’s stop procrastinating and start thinking.
1) What is your motivation for starting your own business?
c) Personal fulfillment
d) Because I hate my job
In my very blunt opinion, it had better be for personal fulfillment. Can you make lots of money working for yourself? Yes. Will you gain independence? Yes. Will you ever hate your job when you own your own company? There are moments when I hate my job, sure, but overall, I am doing what I love to do and so the rest just falls into place.
2) When the boss is out of town, do you think:
a) Fabulous, I can finally have the longer lunch I deserve.
b) At last, that witch is gone!
c) This is a great time for me to figure out how I can really get some stuff done and show everyone else how on top of things I am.
OK, take a few extra minutes at lunch one day, just do it on a day that you came in extra early to clear out your in box. Yes, your boss might be a witch, but you have no idea how much she’s got on her plate. The easy thing to do when the boss is out of earshot is to goof off a bit. Instead, do the opposite and actually work harder. Trust me, those that notice will REALLY notice.
3) True or False? You’re about to leave your current job in order to start your own business. In fact, you have so many clients already lined up that you’re worried you won’t be able to handle the volume.
The answer needs to be a resounding “True.” Here’s why. It’s easy to count all of the money you would make if the current business you are in were yours. I can pretty much guarantee you though that there are many, many expenses that you are not factoring into the picture. That’s normal. But, desire is not enough to start your own company. Lots and lots of clients can be enough, if you’ve already done your homework and determined how much money you need to take in to keep the business afloat. Oh, and when you determine what that number is, double it.
4) When you work from home, the majority of your day is spent:
b) Drumming up new business
c) Catching up on personal stuff that you haven’t had time to deal with.
If you are doing anything other than spending your unsupervised time at home enjoying the fact that you can really focus and power through lots of work things that you haven’t gotten to in your normal zoo of an office, you’ve got problems. When you are your own boss, you need more discipline than you can imagine. How you spend your day can very quickly sink your own ship. My entrepreneurial and sales minded friends joke that the most important time to “sell” is when you’re busy. Why? Because when you’re busy you’re working on jobs that you’ve currently got in the hopper. At some point we all have slow times, so it’s important to spend some time each week on new business development and not just on servicing our existing clients. Note: I did not say neglect your existing clients.
5) Do you see yourself as:
a) Having the thickest skin of anyone you know
b) Being sensitive to criticism. Isn’t everyone?
c) Someone who gets angry when you’re challenged by a client
That skin should be thick, thick, thick! When you have your own business, you no longer have one boss, but millions. Every customer you’ve got becomes your boss and therefore entitled to their opinion. You may not always agree with that opinion or feedback, but listen because it will help you succeed, improve and change with the marketplace.
6) When you talk to a customer and know they are wrong, do you:
a) Tell them they are wrong.
b) Listen to their concerns and then formulate a plan to satisfy them.
c) Blame your coworker, sort of like good cop, bad cop.
One of my heroes is Stephen Covey and one of my favorite books is his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits is something to the effect of: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. In other words, listen, listen, listen. Oftentimes customers just want to be heard. By listening, not only might you learn something, but you very well could solve the problem so well that you turn a critic into your biggest fan.
This dialogue about starting your own business will continue as different topics arise and peak my interest. Since people often ask what it’s like to start your own business, I think this information might be helpful. Check out more from my co-blogger, Merri Jill, on her website HUTdogs.