I knew exactly when it was time for me to consider entrepreneurship — right after I got canned from a company to whom I dedicated over a decade of my life. Yep, after helping a company grow from $30 million to $6 billion, we were sold to the highest bidder and the downsizing began. Within a few months, I found myself collecting unemployment. Two years later, the same thing happened again! I was sick of not being in charge of my own destiny. It was time think about being my own boss.
If I can make more money sitting behind my MacBook Air at my local coffee shop in two hours than I used to make in a week, why wouldn’t I? Well, I can, if I’m smart about it and I think differently about the way I’m working. Also, I’m working for myself, not for “the man.” Sure, entrepreneurship is an incredibly appealing concept. You are your own boss, you determine your compensation, and set your own schedule. Sounds like a dream job, huh? Well, it can be, or it can be an absolute nightmare. Trust me, I know.
I’m not saying I’m the world’s most successful entrepreneur. I’m not — not yet, anyway. I’ve tried my hand at this before and failed miserably. The timing was wrong, I tried something I just wasn’t good at, I wasn’t passionate about the work, I didn’t have the right help, and the timing was horrible. I have learned from my mistakes and over the next few weeks and months I want to share some of my wisdom with you, in hopes you don’t fall victim to some of the same pitfalls.
If you are considering launching a business of your own and pursuing this particular chapter of the American Dream, you need to figure out if you have what it takes to start a business. Hopefully, the timing is right, you have a good idea, and you have considered the obvious questions. But, I feel the following three questions must each be answered with a resounding “yes” before you give up that steady paycheck.
1. Have you discovered your passion?
I worked for years doing something I thought I was passionate about before my life pretty much fell apart and I ended up with what I thought was the crappiest job of my life. Sometimes I even wonder why I went to college. Sorry Mom and Dad, but I’m sure you’ve wondered why you spent all that money, as well. Nevertheless, I found myself getting close to climbing toward the top of the proverbial hill of 40, a failed marriage tumbling behind me, self-employed into poverty, and having to take a retail job making less money than I had ever made in my life. Looking back, that job working for Apple was just what I needed. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing what I was put on this earth to do. I had always been good at my job, but at Apple, I was awesome. When you love what you do, it shines through and people are drawn to your passion.
Steve Jobs captivated audiences for years, not because he was the nicest person in the world, not because he was the greatest public speaker of the century, and not because he was even known as the ultimate CEO. His intense focus on his vision and his contagious love for the products he created were simply addictive. Steve’s passion and enthusiasm made us all believe our lives would be better if we bought what Apple was selling. Well, it worked!
Finally, I knew what I wanted to do for a living. I found my true passion. I suppose someone who names their dog Macintosh already had some sort of inkling as to what truly drives them. Anyway, I soon realized my job would lead me to something I could have never imagined. It did. Not to sound conceited, but I always knew I was bigger than that job. Long story short, I was smart enough to position myself appropriately, network, and identify the right time and circumstances that would allow me to set out on my journey as an entrepreneur once again. It was time for a fresh start, and as I mentioned before, timing can be everything. Are you ready for a fresh start?
2. Are you resilient?
Maybe life has dealt you a few bad hands. Maybe you’ve had some great ideas that were shot down or just turned out to less than brilliant. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this is one tough world full of rejection and disappointment. You have to have a thick skin, stay focused, and see through the storm. A good captain will navigate the brutal seas in the darkest of nights and stay ahead of schedule on the calm and sunny days.
Be prepared, because in the world of entrepreneurship, you are going to have some failures, you are going to face some unfathomed obstacles, and you will have to be resilient. Stay flexible, be nimble, and always be willing to learn. Never stop learning.
3. Do you have any help?
Don’t try to start a business alone. It doesn’t work. You need help.
Find someone you can trust, someone who has a good head on their shoulders, and most importunely, someone who shares your passion. Remember, it’s that passion that will drive you and attract others to do business with you. Be careful who you decide to go into business with, however. It seems obvious, but get things in writing, use contracts, get an attorney involved in the creation of the business. Just be smart and professional.