Being your own boss is at the heart of the American Dream. No wonder it is such a common fantasy. The idea of ownership taps into our profound longing for riches and freedom -- freedom from bosses, restrictive policies, glass ceilings and everything else that robs you of rewards, both financial and creative.
Starting your own business sounds like a great idea especially when we hear such promising stories: a laid-off mid-manager selling her artisanal marmalade to local shops; a lawyer starting an online legal firm; a teacher leaving a franchise fair with a check in her hand. These tales sound oh-so-tempting.
Being your own boss is at the heart of the American Dream, and it's no wonder it is such a common fantasy. The idea of ownership taps into our profound longing for freedom -- freedom from bosses, restrictive policies, glass ceilings and everything else that robs you of rewards, both financial and creative.
But is it really right for you? Do you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur? The French root, prendre, means to take. When you start your own business, you must take on massive responsibility and all risk for any future gains or profit, however delayed they are. Can you do it? Yes or no?
Here are some quick questions that might resolve whether you have what it takes. Be brutally honest with yourself. Recall your past experiences -- or lack thereof -- to support your answers to the following:
1. Do I initiate projects and execute them through successfully?
2. Have I managed projects well without supervision?
3. Have I enjoyed being in charge?
4. Can I hire and fire others when it is necessary?
5. Can I delegate work?
6. Can I criticize others' work and get what I need?
7. Can I negotiate and compromise without feeling that I am selling out?
8. Do I have energy?
9. Can I delay gratification to attain a goal?
If you answer mostly No, you need to recognize that being an entrepreneur is not your style, at least not yet. Most of us are used to the discipline of structure and fulfilling what is required of us by our job. Don't berate yourself if you not only work for a boss, but thrive under a boss. Remember, there are surely more jobs and opportunities.
If you answer mostly Yes, your risk-taking skills suggest that you can be adept at taking chances. But don't go out on your own first. Experiment by working for an established entrepreneur to see how it's done and test the process to see if you relish it.
But if all your answers are Yes, you can be ready to go out on your own or are ripe for an even higher level of management. Consider that position now. It could work in surprising ways, taking you out of your comfort zone, a good thing, but not out of your career.
Business owners and entrepreneurs are not just born. I coach many such people and witness the process. Business owners develop a set of skills that they will practice throughout their lives. I call this skill set, Risking Linking. Linking, of course, is connecting to people -- in person and online -- in meaningful ways of exchange. Risking is difficult to understand, requires much more than just time and money, though it will take plenty of both. It demands that we act despite our lurking and profound fears that we aren't good enough. There is no cure for such anxiety or timidity except to keep practicing this skill, which will, in time, prune terror. Working with a career coach can help you overcome your own self-imposed limitations -- invaluable lessons.
There is more to opening your own business than your entrepreneurial and leadership skills. Ensure not only that the business has the capacity for profit, but also that it's a fit for you specifically. Women start a business based on something they like, whereas men typically buy a business, without much regard for their interests other than being in charge. NAWBO's (National Association of Women Business Owners) stats prove that women's small businesses succeed at far better rates than men's.
If you are ready, find groups that will support your ideas. Sample local networking meetings, powerful places, but only if you become an active member. Just attending doesn't do it. Use your entrepreneurial spirit to start an exchange that can lead you to your next step. Find and use a civic or professional association to practice leadership and sales skills and meet others who can become or lead you to investors. Interview members, including the group's officers, for their own success stories. Volunteer for a committee or task relating to the business you want to start or buy in order to segue into brainstorming and planning.
Learning to pay attention to your own heart and experience is a fine guide for success.
Make your luck happen!