The start of the year is typically a time for resolutions, new diets and long-term goals. While it's always a good idea to improve your personal life, the new year also provides opportunities in your professional life as well. Take time to assess where you're at in your career and if it's time to make a career change.
"While you are fulfilling your New Year's resolutions, make sure your entrepreneurial tasks are at the top of your list," said Tom Portesy, president of MFV Expositions and host of the International Franchise Expo. "Take this time when everyone is embracing their can-do, proactive attitudes to begin putting together your business plan and turn your dreams into reality."
If you want to take the leap into entrepreneurship this year, here is what you should do and consider before starting your business or investing in a franchise.
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Find an opportunity that matches your skills and passion.
Passion is one of the most important factors to take into consideration when you're opening a business or starting a franchise. If you aren't passionate about something you're doing all day, chances are it's going to fail.
"Passion will help you find the field or concepts you are interested in pursuing," said Portesy. "Find something that fits into your personal likes, and your passion will translate into success."
You should also think about your skill set. Take inventory of what you're good at and look for opportunities that compliment those skills.
"For example, if you are skilled in customer service, consider a business that is very client-centric, such as a child care concept," Portesy said.
Do your research.
Adam Robinson, CEO and co-founder of Hireology, said one of the biggest mistakes people make is starting a business without understanding the market they're going to be serving.
"While confidence is a powerful asset, preparation will greatly increase your chances of success," said Robinson. "Researching the opportunity will enable you to avoid common mistakes that come from misunderstanding the current market for your product or service – things like price, positioning and competitive dynamics."
Kevin Kirschbaum, owner for D1 Training Stevens Point, agrees, and recommends doing a complete market assessment and competitive analysis.
"It's ... important to look at potential competitors to determine your business's niche," he said. "Being in the competitive fitness industry, it was important that I ... compare price, service, quality, location, hours and other variables that affect the industry."
Rhonda Sanderson, founder of Sanderson & Associates recommends doing research into what will be "hot" for the next decades – not just a couple years. She also suggested looking for something that is always necessary, such as home maintenance. [See related story: Want to Launch a Startup? Fast-Growing Industries to Consider]
Do you have the time and money?
Before you even think about opening a business, you need to decide if you have the time and money for it. You need to be positive you're in it for the long-haul.
"If you're not 100 percent committed, don't do it," Robinson said. "You're making a decision that's going to require you to put up a substantial portion of your net worth at risk. It's going to take more time, more effort and more capital than you thought. It's a decision that will compel you to give everything you have to have a chance to be successful."
Your financial situation becomes even more crucial when you're looking into a franchising opportunity. Some opportunities have initial investments of a couple thousand dollars, while others can cost a couple million. Portesy advised evaluating your budget, expected future costs and willingness to take a risk.
"If you'd like to open a business with less risk, franchising may be a better option for you due to the proven plans of action already in place," he added.
Finally, consider how much time you're willing to dedicate to your business.
"Can you spend ... seven days a week [in] this business?" said Sanderson. "You can set your own hours, but if the business is yours you have to be fully invested emotionally and willing to wait for the big financial rewards for a little while."