It’s not for everyone!
Answer Yes or No to the following questions.
- Do you have enough savings and credit to live for a year without any other income?
- Is your family entrepreneurial?
- Do you like to take calculated risks?
- Are you always making suggestions for improvement at work?
- Do you have a thick skin for rejection?
- Do you have a marketable idea that a targeted group will pay good money for?
- Do you like being your own boss?
- Do you work hard and smart?
- Are you self-motivated?
- Are you personally responsible for what happens in your life?
- Do you know how to sell or are you willing to learn to sell?
- Are you competitive and do you like to win?
How many times did you answer with yes?
If you scored less than 9, you might want to keep your day job. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts and glory. You need a healthy self-esteem, self-confidence and a bit of ego with lots of persistence, passion and that dreaded “P” word, planning.
Starting a business when you have been an employee all your working life takes a lot of planning and research. It’s the same if you are a recent college grad without professional experience. It is vital that you know how to sell. Without sales, you have no business.
On the popular TV shows, Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den, the first question is usually “What are your sales?” The jury is evaluating if your proposed valuation is creditable or not. Because a ‘million dollar idea’ is only worth a million dollars if someone else will actually pay you that sum.
One of my tag lines is that I help make your passion profitable. When you are starting a business, it has to be about your passion – something you’re really great at AND people are willing to pay a fair price for. It’s not about the money; it takes 3-5 years to get to a substantial income.
That’s why sales are so important
Too many tech entrepreneurs put too much effort into an app or system that no one wants. The Lean Startup book recommends the Mean Viable Product (MVP) approach where you put a basic beta system together and try to sell it. You will get more client research done that polishes the final product. You can then do the same thing with any widget that you want to sell. Before you invest a ton of money and effort, try selling it to strangers first (yes, sales to family and friends don’t count!).
In 1992 I helped start SageData Solutions, the bar code company in Ottawa that is still in operation today. We sold many $25,000 and over custom systems that took months to deliver, with support headaches. I quickly realized the need for an off-the-shelf standard system that fell within the government’s credit limit per individual item.
BASSET (bar code asset tracking) was born, written up on a single sheet of paper! The first time I faxed the specs to a call-in prospect, we got the purchase order a few days later without any further contact with the client. We immediately knew we had a winner. Hundreds of copies have been sold to 25 countries and international organizations like the NATO.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll be working all hours of the day and often late into the night. Weekends will blur and become just another workday. Do you really want to spend all that time writing long business plans? To avoid earning the minimum wage or less, I recommend you try the MVP approach and test your product and service in the real world by selling it to strangers.
Many people, including myself, are overwhelmed at how much there is to do when starting up. That’s why it is important to have a mentor who has gone through this before (hopefully multiple times) to guide you and help you get ahead faster so you don’t make as many mistakes.
Being your own boss is wonderful. It’s just that you have to be prepared to work hard, fail and get up again. Be patient, persist, have a great plan and modify the plan when you’re selling enough and you will succeed. I highly recommend any book by Sir Richard Branson for inspiration. Good luck!
Image credit: by Betsy Weber, via flickr.com.