Before You Start
Plenty of business owners, for better or worse, don't sit down and thoroughly develop their goals before starting out. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that if they had realized what they were getting into, they probably would have lost the nerve to start a business in the first place. Other business owners say that they wish they had thought it all through more carefully and been able to foresee some of the pitfalls they had to deal with once the business was off and running. To get a basic feel for the road that lies ahead, it's important to ask yourself three basic questions.
What Are Your Goals?
Yes, you want to make money, but how much and how fast? Do you see yourself running a mom-and-pop store, or do you hope to own a national chain in several years? Is this a business you hope your children will run for years after you retire, or do you hope to build a successful business over the next ten years, sell it, and retire in some exotic locale with plenty of cash? Are you looking at altruistic goals? After all, people don't open recycling centers or even thrift shops without a sense of responsibility to the community. There are many goals beyond the obvious one of making money. You may also ask yourself how much money is enough? How will you know if you have created a successful business if you have nothing by which to gauge success?
As crazy as it sounds, it's possible to bring a product to market too soon, before customers know they need it. You also don't want to be too late coming to market. The last thing you want to do is invest in launching a product or service if there is no ready market for it. Investigate the market to find if it is the right time and place for your idea before investing too much time and money in your plan.
How Well Do You Understand Business?
You don't need to be an astute reader of the Wall Street Journal to open a business. Eight-year-olds who can barely read the famed financial paper can set up a lemonade stand and rake in some cash on a hot day. However, it's important that you understand business principles as they pertain to your business concept. Do you have a good idea of all that is involved in running a business? This includes bookkeeping, paying taxes, paying employees and vendors, signing contracts, making deals, marketing, and operating in accordance with state, local, and county rules, laws, and regulations. You don't have to know how to do all of this before you start out, but you will have to be ready to research what you don't know and learn as you proceed.
How Will Running a Business Impact Your Life?
Can you emotionally and financially roll with the uncertainty a business faces until it shows a profit? Can your family handle it? Will you be able to maintain a life outside of the business? How motivated are you? How well do you deal with adversity? If running a business is going to turn your hair gray before you reach thirty-five and give you an ulcer, then perhaps the comfort and security of working for someone else isn't so bad after all.
You need to assess how well you can balance the many demands of a business, emotionally and physically, with the rest of your life. You need to be able to have a life away from your business; otherwise, you'll lose all perspective. If you neglect other areas of your life, such as family and health, in the end the business will also suffer as a result. It's important to nourish yourself by maintaining interests and activities that refresh you. Down time away from the business actually let's your mind sift through ideas and issues, enabling you to bring fresh thinking to your challenges.