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Making The Leap Into Entrepreneurship

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? This question, in one form or another, has been asked of me countless times. Maybe you have a favorite hobby or passion, or have come up with a great idea for a product or service and are contemplating making the leap into business ownership in 2012 too. Unfortunately, one of the things that is a hazard of no longer working for someone else is that I don’t have time to have coffee with the people I’d love to share advice with… so thank goodness for Mom Crunch! ;)

I won’t profess this to be an all inclusive list but here are some things I’ve learned in the last six years of being on my own. I write this with the intent to give you pause… because as you contemplate the entrepreneurial leap is the optimum time to reflect, rather than… um, later.

1. Your passion is just the beginning.
Just because you love to do something does not mean you should start a business doing it. I have both experienced myself and witnessed it among my colleagues. Do you love making jewelry or baking cakes or in my case, painting? Before you hang the shingle or start the Etsy store, ask yourself if you will love doing this thing for what feels like 24 hours, 7 days a week. And when you are not doing it, can you spend your “free” time talking about it and wanting to do it more and promoting it. Again, my friends who own businesses often chuckle about how the idea of passion is always tied in to those rah-rah presentations about entrepreneurship. My take is that being passionate about something does not automatically mean that your business around your passion will be successful but rather that your passion is just one of the qualities you’ll need to be successful — because you’ll need it to fuel the countless hours and hard work that your business will require to be viable.

2. Have a plan.
Then be willing to let go of it. Again, success is really tough to achieve when you have no idea what it looks like and/or how you’re going to get from here to there. Now one of the huge advantages of being an entrepreneur is having the flexibility to change your plans when necessary. I’m not a big proponent of spending months on a a formal business plan unless you are planning on getting funding. I don’t care if you have it scribbled and doodled in journals but a plan is a must. Just winging it… is NOT A GOOD IDEA.

3. Find advisors.
It’s very tough to do this alone. There are just too many tasks. There are too many strategic decisions that need to be made. There are too many varying skill sets that are required. I have been very fortunate — I have two business partners who are both wicked smart women who have complimentary skill sets to my own. Above and beyond Suzanne and Jen, I also often float ideas and solutions by a trusted group of friends and colleagues. One of the things that has been a really great resource is using Gallup’s StrengthFinder 2.0 to identify my own strengths and the people that I plan to work with extensively.

4. Expect to fail.
Not everything you do will be a success. Not every initiative/project/campaign turns out the way you expect. I heard a story once about how many failed experiments Thomas Edison had to run before he invented the filament for the light bulb. The key is to learn something from everything you do, regardless of its outcome. Every failure is an education. Think of it as the tuition fee for an advanced degree. I started a couple different ventures before finding my stride and I learned invaluable lessons along the way. In the same way, you have to budget for failure — so that you are prepared to financially weather the failures in order to get to your successes. When his team was complaining of the number of times they failed to achieve anything, Edison replied, “Nonsense! Now we know a thousand different ways it doesn’t work.” Okay, I’m not sure if that’s the exact quote but… you get the idea.

5. How are you at handling risk?
Can you handle the heat? Ask yourself if you have the personality to run your own businesses. It sounds so very romantic and not to mention popular these days to be working on your own from the nearest Starbucks along with everyone else, right? But don’t underestimate the security and peace of mind of that regular paycheck, my friend. Unless you’ve been planning this leap for years and have a nest egg that will allow you to pay yourself regularly right off the bat, you can kiss that security goodbye. Where you are on the risk averse scale is a good thing to understand.

photo credit: stock xchng

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