Photo: Flickr – D.J. Milky
You’ve always dreamed about starting your own business. So you’ve read the books, listened to the cautionary tales, and worked through some checklists. You’ve done your homework.You feel sure that owning your own business is right for you.
Not so fast.
If any of the following applies, think twice before taking the entrepreneurial plunge:
1. Your workday must include a chunk of “me” time. The last thing you’ll have time for is managing your fantasy team when revenues and profits are a distant dream. The same is true for seeing what’s up with your Facebook friends, tweeting your favourite inspirational quotes, or ranting on message boards.
You can forget “me” time in a startup, because you’ll never have enough time to do the critical stuff.
So start now. Quit your fantasy leagues, say goodbye to your Facebook friends (at least the ones who won’t someday be customers), and focus on your thoughts, not those of your favourite bloggers. Start spending all your “free” time thinking about how you’ll make money.
If that’s too big of a sacrifice, stay where you are.
2. You spend time personalizing your office. I know: You dreamed of a bigger office. You’re proud of your bigger office. You deserved that bigger office. It’s only right that it reflects your personality and your personal brand.
Now say you plan to open a restaurant; since customers will never see your office, the only thing it should reflect is “cheap.” Start-up funds should never be spent on anything that will not touch the customer.
Besides, you’ll be too busy chasing customers to worry about whether your office aligns with your personal brand.
3. You don’t empty your own trash, even when you’re headed that way. “Someone” takes care of housekeeping, you say? Someone moves your furniture, fixes your printer, and solves your network problems? Your job is to focus on more important tasks?
Maybe so… but not anymore. Entrepreneurs, especially early on, don’t wear several hats—they wear every hat.
Besides, in a start-up efficiency is everything: No movement should be wasted, no time saving is too small, and no expense is too minor to eliminate.
If doing whatever needs to be done — no matter how menial or relatively unskilled — isn’t something that comes naturally to you, don’t go out on your own.
4. You feel you could be a lot more productive if you just had that new… Think about your last laptop, smartphone, tablet, or software purchase. Did it really make you more efficient? Can you quantify the gains?
Or was it just fun to have?
I’ve never heard an entrepreneur say, “Jeez, we were really struggling to make a profit until I bought the new iPad—then our revenues took off!”
In a start-up you’ll be lucky to get the “must have” stuff. Even if you have the funds, money spent on “nice to have” is always money wasted.
5. You’re still mad your department got shorted during the last budget cycle. Unless your rich uncle funds your new venture, you won’t really have a “budget.” The money you spend won’t come from a vast corporate pot. It will come from your pocket.
If you hate struggling with limited resources or seeing your can’t-miss project plans unjustly compromised by budgetary concerns, you’ll also hate running your own business when you realise bootstrap is a verb.
6. You discuss work-life balance issues with passion and intelligence. The concept of work-life balance is an artificial construct — there is no line between “work” and “life” — but let’s pretend one does exist.
If you think a lot about the conflict between work and life, and you feel work is winning the battle, wait until you start a business.
“Work” will eat “life” for breakfast.
7. You’ve ever said, even once, “I’ve paid my dues.” When you run your own business you pay your dues every day. (The same should be true if you work for someone else, because the only real measure of your value is the tangible contributions you make on a daily basis.)
No customer cares about your vast experience or years of hard work… unless the fruit of that labour benefits them. You pay your dues when customers pay you.
As a business owner, you earn the right today to stay in business tomorrow. That is your only “due.”
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