Ahhhhh, the good life. Many a corporate drone have dreamed about escaping the rat race and retiring to some secluded island in the Caribbean. Beautiful white sand crinkling between your toes, sweet aromatic stogie poised between your very important lips, and crystal clear waters making you feel at peace and in control. Right? At least that’s what those myriad biz opportunity ads that come on late at night to lure you into one more pyramid scheme tell you. While we can’t judge for you whether using that product will make you the next Internet millionaire, but we can tell you what you can do to grow your small business dreams if you’re hankering even just a little bit for "the good life."
It’s been said a rough economy makes folks get creative. Unemployment wavering back and forth around 7-8% makes people desperate. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and when you worry about job security constantly, being thankful for merely having a job starts us thinking, "What can I do to get out of this?" You want security, you want to be able to provide for your family, without working 18 hour days and without giving up all of your personal life.
Even in good times, many of us have probably fantasized about what it would be like to own a small business. The romanticism of working to build a small empire, all from scratch, like the great tycoons of old -- Rockefeller, Carnegie, Buffet -- yes you’d be in great company. But is it really that easy?
Let me share with you from experience: No. It is challenging and it is rewarding to be sure. But if you haven’t heard it before, let me warn you now so you will forever know: it is much harder to work for yourself than it will ever be working for someone else. A steady paycheck is a steady paycheck. You might hate your boss, you might work for a pittance, but you get that pittance every 2 weeks.
Come on out here, the water’s fine, the gurus say. Well before you put on your swim trunks and dive into the sea of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, let us give you a reality check to help you decide clearly if a small enterprise, perhaps just part-time, could be for you.
Let's start basic at the beginning.
What are the things you love to do, the things you’re good at? The fact of the matter is you're taking a gargantuan risk, and likely investing your life savings in whatever venture you choose. If you're only lukewarm on the product or service you're selling, you will fail. Success often follows passion, so since this will most likely form the foundation of your mega success, take into account you’ll never stop working at something you love.
So you've done your research and found your passion. Great. Now you need to figure out if it even has a chance of making you money.
For example, it’s great if you own the largest tool and die shop this side of Kansas. What isn’t great if nobody’s in the market to buy. Before you plunk down your hard earned money, do some research to see if anyone will spend a buck procuring that product or service you love so well.
No, not the psychiatric kind. The business start-up sort.
My favorite is Score.org. If you’ve never heard of SCORE (the Service Corps of Retired Execs), let me tell you you’re missing out on some of the best minds who can help you make sense of the business maze. These are folks who have been there and done that on the frontlines of corporate and entrepreneurial success, with a good chance at least one of them worked in your particular industry. Take advantage of their strengths. Pick their brains. They might just help you avoid wasting A LOT of time and money.
Nothing spells disaster in any small business like going it alone.
Forget the romantic notions of staying up all night, working away while everyone sleeps, waiting for that great day of hitting business gold. If you want to really succeed, you need the support, understanding and assistance that comes from your closest loved ones backing you. When family members understand what you’re going for, it’s much easier to support you. When a paycheck is on the line and you’ve convinced everyone this will be "the next big thing," you need all the love (and patience!) from loved ones who are depending on you, you can get.
Wouldn’t you just love to have unlimited investment in your start-up or yet-to-be-established venture?
Oh if traditional banks would just hear you out and quit giving you that load about your credit, the tight lending market, the unfeasibility of your idea and lack of experience. Who are they? Well unfortunately banks and to a lesser degree, credit unions, were the de facto way of getting loans for business in times past. But today, it’s a different story.
Fortunately for you, there are places like Kickstarter. They fund creative projects but there are many more funding sources for the small business leader in you. You no longer are beholden to big banks that take you through loads and loads of red tape and delay, only to turn you down anyway. Look into microloans and crowd funding. That’s where the money’s at.
Many an entrepreneur with a great idea didn’t make it simply because they were -- to be blunt -- flakes.
You have to have the courage to stay with your idea, even if it doesn’t work out right away. You may waste some time and lose some money, but if you thought you were going to get rich without losing something, investing something, it was perhaps wrong to think of entrepreneurship as a way out of employment hell anyway.
Anyone you get to invest in your idea, whether mentally or financially, will want to see that you have some skin in the game. Stick with it and be willing to lose, until you can come up with better ideas that win.
A business plan that is. Get professional help, again. But this time as it relates to laying down a solid financial, marketing and product or service plan that will get people talking. A serious investor, even if just a family member or friend, will want to see something on paper. To most folks, that shows you’re serious and not just flapping your gums.
Yes we know you’re a genius and can do all it in your head, but your business plan is just as much winning the support of family and friends as it is about building your mini empire. Trust us. No matter how bright you are, you need a roadmap for success. If not for you, for your investors and the people supporting you.
Sometimes this one is hard, mainly because it means you have to admit someone is already doing something well that you wish you could do. It means letting go of ego and being willing to learn. You can’t become better at a task by surrounding yourself with people who are not as good as you. You’re better than that! You must take the time and cultivate a network of allies, entrepreneurs and investors who understand the cruel waters you are about to tread.
Make friends and don’t bombard them (yet) with business information. Ask them probing but non-threatening questions that will make them open up to you and trust you as a colleague, as opposed to the over eager beaver who doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. This kind of exposure will save you countless hours of unnecessary work, introduce you to peers who will become your mentors, and give you knowledge that you’d probably take years to find out on your own.
Pick their brains, but reasonably. There’s nothing like a friend who understands what keeps you up late at night.
We saved this one for last, because it’s the business (and business owner) who commits to excellence, does the hard stuff when everyone else is slacking off, who is going to succeed.
Excellence is hard to define but easy to recognize. Even if other aspects of your business are off, excellence inspires people to believe in you, to give you a chance, to show off your work. Everyone wants to be associated with the best. Make that someone you.
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