“Free enterprise will work if you will.”
Ray Kroc, founder, McDonalds
Should I Start a Business? A difficult question. Your reason to start your own business may be a sense of independence, the need to prove something, wanting more money or desire for a different lifestyle. Whatever the motivation, going into business can be scary.
To begin with, starting your own business raises questions and doubts. Can you do it? What will happen if you fail? Will you go broke? If you are thinking this way, excellent. If you are thinking about riches and glamor before you open the door, you are not being realistic. Here are a few “landmines” you will be wise to think about:
How real are your plans? What are your friends and family telling you about your dream? Should you listen to them? Your expectations can cause you problems if you are so puffed up by your plans or dreams that you believe all you are saying. It is one thing to believe in your skills and your talents, but quite another to practice salesmanship on yourself.
We may not like reality. At one time I had a business partner who would construct pie-in-the-sky sales projections and dreams. If I questioned the reality of such plans, I was accused of being negative – he wanted my concurrence that his fantasy was real. Honesty does not always endear you to others.
If you have a great idea, and are comfortable with your plans, do this: Reduce your sales forecast in your business plan by half, and double the time you think it will take to become profitable. It is best to err on the safe side if your business is to survive.
Plan that whatever can go wrong probably will. Murphy’s Law has not been repealed. You can rely on things going astray. With that said, how much frustration can you handle?
How long can your family get by without a paycheck? The rule of thumb is at least six months. If you must draw an income before your business starts to make money, you are spending your principal or capital, or you are borrowing to pay your bills.
As it is unlikely your savings account will be enough to finance your venture, you may have to borrow from family and friends. How understanding do you think they will be when you tell them they have to wait for their money as things are not going as well as you hoped? Families may fight and friends may be lost over money – not a pleasant by-product of a new business.
On a personal note, will your marriage withstand the tension and pressure? The demands of a new business, coupled with the frustration and your worries for the future, will require your family to have the patience of Job. It is wise to prepare them if you wish to come home to smiles.
What is your opinion of a person who heads to a casino with $5000, finds a seat at the blackjack table, and within a few hours has lost it all? Should he stop and go home or borrow and continue, hoping to reverse the losses?
Opening a business presents similar psychological challenges. How long can you live with your losses and the cash drain before you must borrow more to stay in business, or call it quits? It is one thing to lose your stake, quite another to lose your future monies to debt. Quit too soon and you have lost it all; quit too late and you have lost even more, but hang on long enough, you may survive. Tough choices. I say limit your losses to your investment – then walk away. That does not mean you are a failure; it means you took a calculated risk – now cut your losses and move on with your life’s journey.
As they say in the stock market, hedge your position. If possible, think about starting part-time, keeping your present job until you know how things are progressing. If you can slide into your venture keeping your present income, you are in a favorable position to limit your risk.
Before you start thinking that I am preaching too much caution, remember this: If your plan goes sour, your failing business is not a blackjack table you can step away from. As it took you time to get into business, it will take time to get out and it will not be pleasant.
Remember, one of the wisest strategies you can use is playing “devil’s advocate” with yourself. If you can’t, your family and friends should. Here are a few suggestions that may help you:
- No matter how attractive any business idea is, assume it to be half as promising as you think it will be.
- Realize that it will take twice as long to be successful as you plan.
- Plan on living without a paycheck for six months.
- Plan on your business and your life becoming one. There will not be time for anything else.
- Remove the word “problem” from your vocabulary and replace it with “challenge.”
- If things go great, don’t get cocky; you are lucky or blessed, not a genius.
After the first 18 months, if you are still in business – wonderful! With prudence and dedication you are on your way to a great adventure.
(C) Copyright 2001 Dr. Paul E. Adams. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.