A GUIDE FOR YOUNG ADULTS AND EVEN CORPORATE TYPES
I started my first business when I was five years old. I sold re-straightened nails out of my red wagon to carpenters building houses in my neighborhood. You’re never too young to start a business.
As a longtime member of the entrepreneur’s tribe, I hear stories, dreams and plans from students, recent graduates and longtime corporate suit types that say, “I want to start my own business.” Yet when pressed for a written plan, they don’t have one in sight.
Here’s a checklist for those of you seriously entertaining the idea of joining the tribe. If you’re firing on most of these cylinders, you’re on your way. If not, ask yourself some serious questions and decide if you’re in it for the long term, or if you’re not ready to commit.
- Find your real motive. Ask yourself what it is–fame, power, wealth, boredom, escapism, or to prove something to your parents or yourself?
- Decide on your goal. Is your objective career advancement or to facilitate a lifestyle? Some people start with a plan to grow their business and ultimately sell it. Others decide to keep their business small, have more flexibility and freedom for family, vacations or other adventures.
- Start a bank account designated solely as your entrepreneur fund. Start socking away hundreds/thousands of bucks a month. If you don’t invest in your venture, why should others take you seriously—let alone give you seed money?
- Practice delayed gratification. Success doesn’t come overnight; get used to being patient. If you can’t wait to get the slick 42” HD TV, a new car, a bigger house, and all the stuff that your neighbors have now, then you’re not cut out for the entrepreneur’s tribe. You may have to go without these things for years as your business grows.
- Expect to go it alone. Most people can’t stomach the perceived risks of running their own business. Funding healthcare and retirement plans, paying employees, a lease and a mortgage is enough responsibility to keep most people out of the tribe.
- Expect support. Family, friends, associates whom you trust are your new board of advisors…until you start growing. Then you need hire to objective professionals outside your business.
- Write down your business plan and goals down, NOW. If they not written, you’re not serious. The plans and goals should be detailed, with dates, goals, pictures, market research—everything that needs to get done should be in that plan.
- Don’t network, research. Do research on your market and your product or service. Read, listen, watch, study, act. Business cocktail parties are only good for meeting people who want to sell you something, for boosting your ego and for giving away your genius ideas.
- Pay for counsel. Spend some money out of your fund to get professional advice. Uncles and parents are not the ideal mentors to talk about risk, investing, technology, etc. You will need to learn from those in similar industries.
- Be flexible and inflexible. Commit to staying the course. But also be willing to change directions if new opportunities arise or if business ideas shift or lose social interest.
- Believe in yourself. Faith is critical when faced with the long odds of starting a successful business. Listen to what you say when you talk to yourself. Notice how you react to pressures and new information. Soon you will begin to see patterns in your behavior.
- Read. Read. Read. Ask questions centered around what you are reading. TV is a “free-will eradicator”. Make yourself wealthy by learning, and by thinking deeply not by watching advertisements disguised as television programs.
- Sacrifice. Entrepreneurs don’t just miss parties, they miss a lot of sleep, TV, concerts, sunsets, novels. What you’re willing to give up says more about what you’re willing to go after. But don’t give up your spouse, family, or friends.
- Eat macaroni and cheese and carry a cool pen. Be frugal with expenses and save your cash for marketing, travel and other expenses that will drive you closer to your goals and success. Don’t look cheap. Dress well and carry quality gear. Keep your car clean. Back your image with substance.
- Question yourself. Are you right for this sacrifice? What do your heart and gut tell you? Are you willing to save, work overtime, study your craft and commit to succeed no matter what? If so, then welcome aboard. It’s gonna be a wild and exciting ride.
Give a copy of this to a young person or a friend who has shown the spark of starting their own business. They’ll be grateful you did.
Dr. Russ Riendeau is a Vistage member and speaker who has been in the executive search field for over 22 years. He’s written five books and holds a PhD in psychology. He is the founder/senior partner of The East Wing Search Group.