When people think about the questions to ask themselves before starting a business, the list usually includes standards like, "Is my product viable?" and "Have I thoroughly researched my target market?" But when figuring out if their business plan is solid and how they're going to raise funds, aspiring entrepreneurs often forget about the other side of running a business: the owner's psychological preparedness.
It's easy to confuse "being psychologically ready" with "being ready to escape corporate life," but there's much more to entrepreneurship than the freedom to be your own boss.
"Entrepreneurship is spreading at a time when people are increasingly unhappy or unfulfilled in their 9 to 5 jobs, leading to an oversimplified notion that becoming a business owner is the answer to all their problems," said Grace Clapham, co-founder of an educational retreat called The Change School based in Bali. "While one of the many joys of being an entrepreneur is the ability to manage your own time and play with possibilities, this is only half the picture."
The other half of the picture may not be as enticing. "The less glamorous reality of being an entrepreneur is that it is hard work," added Clapham's co-founder Solonia Teodros. "It demands discipline — doing what has to be done even when you don't feel like it — and is abound with rough days, uncertainty and compromise."
The Change School's retreats are specifically geared toward individuals who are at times of change or transformation in their lives, such as those who are looking to start a business for the first time. These retreats help such individuals evaluate whether they are truly equipped to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Clapham and Teodros advised aspiring business owners to ask themselves the following questions to assess their emotional and mental readiness for this life-altering change. [Starting a Business? 8 Tips for New Entrepreneurs]
Why do I want to embark on this journey? Many early entrepreneurs launch a business around an idea that excites them at the time or seems like a lucrative opportunity, only to lose interest or steam within a few years. While excitement and earning potential are good reasons to found a startup, having clarity about why you are doing it and what value you want to create are the only certainties that will keep you going when the going gets rough.
"[If] the business grows and takes off, will you still have the passion, drive and discipline needed to keep going?" Clapham said. "The only way to be certain about a long-term commitment is to ensure your business represents your purpose and passion and greater vision."
Am I certain that my current or alternate jobs can't fulfill these desires? Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Teodros noted that people have come to The Change School with the intention of launching a business, and later realized that it wasn't really a direction they wanted to take. Some people simply need more structure in their current career: a larger team, more direction, an existing brand, etc.
"Entrepreneurship shouldn't be seen as a solution or backup plan for leaving a dissatisfactory job," Teodros told Business News Daily. "[If this is the case], invest time and resources to discovering untapped opportunities in your current job or alternate positions."
Do I have a strong support system or network? Look at your immediate network and identify influencers or thought leaders who can help champion your cause or connect you to others. Engage in communities, both online and offline, to tap experts for insights, bounce ideas off of others and, perhaps most importantly, seek moral support.
"Entrepreneurship can be lonely and has its share of tough days," Clapham said. "Having a value-led community is key."
What kind of time frame would make you comfortable? If you feel that you are in fact ready to become a business owner, you'll need to give yourself the appropriate amount of time and space to psychologically prepare for the journey ahead. Figure out your 'why,' refine your business plan, and do the groundwork to research, connect and engage the players in your ecosystem, Teodros said. From there, depending on the resources available, you can decide when to launch your product or business.
When you're satisfied with your answers to these four questions, you can and should feel confident about diving into entrepreneurship.
"Get out there and start," Clapham said. "Don't wait until everything's perfect, just launch and refine. Know that there are no short cuts. Keep learning, refining, adapting and going."
Originally published on Business News Daily