I love the hopeful feeling of having a new calendar and fresh plans laid out in front of me. But of course the New Year doesn't wait long before euphoria subsides and it begins testing your resolve, persistence and plans. Whether your goals for 2012 were written in indelible ink or simply mumbled to yourself during your commute, the universe somehow seems to know about them and begins delivering the challenges. At some primal level, we know that our plans will only take wing if we get both hands on the steering wheel and are not shy about turning it in a direction we want to go. So, if starting a business is on your list of resolutions, I have some thoughts to share with you.
One of the top three questions people ask me about launching their first business is "When is the best time to start?" My reply is, "When your frustration or anger with present circumstances rises to be even just one degree greater than your fears." Sometimes it's a bit like planning to have children -- Surprise, the moment is here! In business, there are two real start dates. The first is when you open a bank account in the business name. That means you've done the preliminary housekeeping with a name, registering a URL for your website, even a rudimentary business plan and put together some amount of start up money. The second start date is when you receive the first dollar from a customer! That really propels the process of marketing, sales, bookkeeping, client relations and all the other stuff that leaves you tired but satisfied with your decision.
Every time I read about people being laid off from jobs they've held for many years, I feel that it could be the right time for them to start a business! Yes, when you are emotionally shocked, a bit unsteady on your feet and worried about the future may be your entrepreneurial moment. If you've been nourishing an idea for a long time and muttering about how you could do better than your boss or the company owner, you've just been given a fresh sheet of paper to write your own success story. Benjamin Disraeli said that "Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius."
So, if you are at the 'yearning to get started' phase, January 2012 can be the month for your first stage. Anywhere from month four to 10 can be the time to yank the cork of a bottle of champagne to celebrate the first customer and dollar of income. Now is the time. If you are looking for inspiration, small business enterprises are all around us everyday. For instance, I became curious about the Christmas tree business a few weeks ago while enduring mall madness and learned a couple of things. There is a national Christmas Tree Association and they tell me that Americans bought about 27 million fresh cut trees last year and that amounted to over $976 million in sales. In fact, more than half of those dollars went to small business owners. The point is that you don't have to look far to see the entrepreneurial spirit at work.
With the oldest Baby Boomers facing shrinking retirement prospects and a fresh wave of well-degreed college graduates rolling into the job market, a lot of people have to be thinking of creating their own jobs in enterprising ways. Don't let the media picture of the state of the economy discourage you. Every hour of every day, things are being made and sold, businesses are being started and money is changing hands. Age, formal education and ethnic background don't really matter. You can begin whether you have chump-change or big money. There is no practical reason that this wind of opportunity and commerce has to blow past you. Time magazine and Federal Express were both started during dull and discouraging economic times. This could be your time.
Here is a brief self diagnostic exercise for you to answer a few questions that will help you get started. Ask what you can deliver that offers value to another person or a company. My bookkeeper started part time on her dining table offering simple bookkeeping services to interior decorators! How much time are you willing to devote to getting started? Is it worth five to eight hours per week in preparation to change your future for the better? How much money do I have to begin this adventure? Many years ago a partner and I started a Submarine Sandwich shop with just $500 between us by taking over some space in an existing pizzeria. The lack of overhead made a difference and the business grew to multiple locations. Who can help me? Start by seeking the help and understanding of your significant other, friends and relatives particularly if they have some ownership experience. Their help can come as emotional support, skills and even dollars. There are low cost and free classes in most cities across America where you can get expert information and spend face time with other business owners. That peer to peer contact is very nourishing. You can see self diagnostic forms on the Making It! TV website.
Some people advise that the business plan must be your first document but I feel that you really should write out a detailed description of your dream situation before that. This "vision document" has to be so real in your mind that you can walk into that picture. I advise that your dream document include descriptions of the product or service, the office, and the people who will work with you. You should picture yourself making deposits at the bank, and the approving smiles of those who supported you. See yourself as an accomplished winner. Now really is the time.
It may not seem so smart to start a business in a down economy, but I'm in the school of thought that says the time is never perfect, but action overcomes obstacles. Getting your great idea out of your head and into reality is one of life's most satisfying experiences. Right now people are a lot more receptive to entrepreneurs because of the fragile state of things. We are living in a nervous, amplified and urgent environment, even without the predictions of the Mayan calendar. Now is almost always better than later. If there are some rough seas ahead, do you want your hands on the tiller or someone else's? I'm voting for you -- right now!