Are you tired of the 9-to-5 grind at a thankless job? Do you daydream about flexible hours and more control over your life? Wouldn’t you like to afford that beautiful house with a white picket fence on a few acres of land? Generation Catalano and younger Millennials are becoming increasingly restless in their day jobs; they’re nearing an age where settling down is beginning to look attractive, but their financial outlook is grim. Many have taken on a second or third job just to pay the bills, and the prospect of keeping up this lifestyle into retirement is exhausting. But what if you started your own business? What if you could take control of where your life is headed, and create the stability and comfort you desire?
The Easy Answer
If the thought has crossed your mind, and you’re asking yourself if you should take your future into your own hands and start your business, here’s your answer: YES. Of course, you should! The only reason you shouldn’t is because deep down you actually don’t want to. You have a secure job with benefits and a 401K, and you’re happy as a clam where you are. But if you didn’t want to, you wouldn’t be flirting with the idea and you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.
The Hard Truth
I am not going to lie to you. Starting your own business takes A LOT of work. It takes research, all of your free time, and a decent amount of trial and error. Take a long, hard look at why you want to do this. There will be times when you will feel worn out from putting all of your energy into creating something from nothing that you will need to decide if it’s still worth it to you. Why do you need to know why? Because the answer to this question will be where your second wind comes from when you feel like quitting. It will be your invisible cheerleader… your motivational center. It will bring you back down to the ground and force you to refocus. If you want your venture to be successful, you will harness that passion and excitement that put you on this path in the first place. It will give you the strength to forge on.
The Business Plan
After you decide that I’m right, and you should indeed start your own business, you’ll need a business plan (essentially, your business roadmap). To begin the process, do me a favor… Go to your favorite search engine of choice and type in “Business Plan Template.” You’re welcome. The internet is magical, isn’t it? That said, getting to the nitty gritty of actually gathering all of this information can feel a bit overwhelming. At this point, you may procrastinate because the thought of how much time and effort you will spend on this step is daunting. If this sounds like you, the SBA can help! The U.S. Small Business Administration has a Business Plan tool that takes you through the planning process step-by-step. And for those of you who hate clicking on links within articles, here is my QDBP (Quick and Dirty Business Plan) template:
SWOT Analysis – As it relates to your business – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities (positive external factors), Threats (risks caused by external factors)
Executive Summary – Mission Statement, Company Info, Products/Services Offered, Financial Info, Future Plan Summary
Key Objectives – What needs are you serving in the market? How will you address this need through your products/services?
Market Analysis – Industry Description, Target Market (Who and How Big?), Who’s your competition? Do you suffer any restrictions in the market?
Management/Ownership – Who’s who in your business? Who is in charge of what? (You can also include each person’s experience, education, skills, percentage of ownership, etc…)
Products/Services – Describe your offerings, including your product’s life cycle. List copyrights, patents, and R&D (Research & Development) activities, as well.
Marketing/Sales Strategy – How do you plan on penetrating the market, and communicating with your audience? What will you do to ensure growth? What sales activities will you implement?
Finance – Do you need help with funding? What are your financial projections based on industry analysis?
Additional Info – References, Legal Docs, Resumes, etc…
Now that all the research-y grunt work is behind you (for now) and you have a good sense of what’s up in your market space, you can set some goals. Be realistic. If you make promises to yourself (and potentially others) that you know will be hard to keep, then don’t do it. You will only be setting yourself up for failure. Plus – there’s no reason to rush. This is YOUR business. You set the rules. If you do it right the first time, you limit the number of setbacks.
Ready, Steady, Go!
Now all you have to do is take off the proverbial training wheels, and you’re ready to roll! As long as you follow the plan and timeline you’ve (realistically) mapped out for yourself, you’ve got a good headstart. For good measure, I’ll leave you with some inspirational words. The Great One once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Well, Mr. Gretzky, you’re 100% right.