Click for a printer-friendly version of this article The Consulting and Independent Contracting Corner

Starting a Business 101 -- Do You Have the Right Stuff?

by Elaine Garnet, Consulting and Independent Contracting (CIC) SIG Manager


Dear Entrepreneurial Spirit:

Since my last letter, I have anguished about giving you advice on how to start a business when I'm moving into my fourth year, and I am still learning new things. At least I have given the following assessment questions some consideration. You need to be honest in your self-assessment, something that I tended to gloss over, and which has resulted in some painful sessions with my conscience.

If you have a good business idea, and you are not expecting to get rich quick by owning a small business, ask yourself these questions to see if you have the right stuff.

Do you have the stamina?

Are you willing to work long hours? You know how long it takes to write a manual or develop a help project. That's called working 'in' the business. You will need to work extra hours 'on' the business to develop new business and maintain existing business. It's all about sales and marketing. Then, there's the grunt work of filing, accounting, answering e-mails, etc. I found that at the beginning of my venture, 'on' the business outweighed 'in' the business. Now, that I have clients, I have to juggle both aspects.

Do you have the discipline?

Most contractors and independent consultants work in their home office with outside time spent visiting clients, networking and solving other business issues, such as banking, dealing with printers, etc. Can you get up in the morning and go to the home office as if you are going to a workplace office? Can you resist the temptation to watch TV, chat with friends or play Solitaire? It requires discipline to treat the home office as a place of business.

Do you have the self-confidence?

You will have to deal with sales and marketing, customer service, networking and all aspects of business. These require interpersonal skills and face-to-face contact. If you can promote yourself with confidence, you probably can promote your business just as well. If you are a shrinking violet, don't fret. You may choose to partner with a more self-confident person or subcontract your sales and marketing function. This question requires a little personality assessment. For example, I am an introvert who can masquerade as an extrovert when essential. I wouldn't let being an introvert hold you back.

Can you cope with uncertainty?

Be honest. Uncertainty causes me a great deal of anxiety. Determine if you can deal with not knowing what next month will bring. If you can't, don't be discouraged. You might try to find some stress relievers or fall back on your natural optimism. I have supportive colleagues with whom I can share my concerns. After all, as business owners, they have the same worries.

Are you willing to take risks?

Starting a business is a moderate to huge personal and financial risk. If you simply must have a regular paycheck, you may want to consider part-time employment or good line of credit to bridge the initial gap. Having a supportive significant other or family is also a big help.

Can you be persistent?

I have seen a lot of small businesses cave in during the first year. Some had financial issues; others had personal issues. I believe the key is persistence. If you can think outside the box, there is a solution to most problems. Synchronicity plays a big part in business, just like life, and doors can open at the most unexpected time.

Conclusion

Factors such as age, gender, marital status or life stage should make no difference in making a decision to start your own business. All entrepreneurs tend to share the same attitudes and these attitudes spell success. If you have answered 'yes' or 'maybe' to any of these questions, you might have the right stuff. The next step is up to you.

I hope this letter will help you make an honest decision.

Sincerely,

Elaine Garnet


CIC-SIG Manager


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