On paper, becoming an entrepreneur seems like a fairly reasonable proposition. Raise some money, start a business, make a profit. You expect to hit a few bumps along the way, but the basic premise is that if you have a good idea, work hard and stick it out, you'll make it.
In reality, owning your own business is more like episodes of "The Apprentice," "Survivor," and "Fear Factor" all rolled into one. It takes nerves of steel and a willingness to do things that might be less than rational. You may end up sacrificing your money, your free time and maybe even your sanity.
If you're wondering if you've got what it takes to be a successful business owner, you don't need an MBA. Instead, ask yourself these five questions:
Am I willing to risk it all? – Some lucky startups raise cash from investors or qualify for bank loans. The rest bootstrap it. "Bootstrapping" is a nice way of saying: risking every penny you have. It may well require putting your life savings on the line, cashing out your 401k and taking out a home equity loan . You may need to borrow money from your family that you'll never be able to repay. You may even need to use credit cards to finance your new business. Your spouse may have to work to support you while you get on your feet. Maybe risking your personal finances is not a good idea, but often, it's the reality.
Am I willing to skip vacations (and weekends)? – Time off is essential for work-life balance , but, in fact, your customers don't care much about your work-life balance. They want your product or service and they want it now. Hanging a "Gone Fishing" sign on the door isn't going to cut it. If you can't offer steady and consistent service every day for the next several years, you're not gonna make it. If you can find someone to stand in for you while you're away – great. If not, you'd better consider a "workcation ."
Am I willing to be ruthless? Ruthless, does not mean dishonest. Ruthless means doing what's best for your business, even if it means making tough decisions. While you may really want to help your best friend from college get back on his feet after his divorce, hiring him to work for you is just asking for trouble. Do what's right for you, your customers and your business. Otherwise, you and your buddy will both be out of a job.
Am I willing to lose sleep? – When you own your own business, most of your day is spent putting out fires. Paperwork, filing, bookkeeping and long term planning have to wait until after hours when everyone else has called it quits for the day. The idea that owning your own business is going to be like working a regular job is nowhere near accurate. So, set the alarm clock for 4 a.m. and plan to make it a late night.
Am I willing to be wrong? – If you've made it this far, you're most likely passionate about your business idea. You'd have to be to be willing to risk your life savings, your health and your relationships. But, sometimes, we're so in love with our own ideas, that we're unwilling to change when it becomes apparent that it's not working. Once you get started, you may well find that your entire business idea is based on an inaccurate assumption. If your customers aren't responding well to what you're selling, you may need to admit defeat and rethink your business plan. Who knows, you may find there's a much better idea waiting around the corner.
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