Entrepreneurship is an exciting and worthwhile endeavor. Profiting from
your expertise (instead of allowing your employer to rake it in),
setting your own schedule, and calling your own shots all make for a
very pretty picture.
It\’s no wonder then that starting one\’s own business has become a very
popular endeavor in recent years. Before you jump in, however, it\’s
important to recognize that not everyone is cut out to be
self-employed, be it because of life circumstances or personality
types. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to be here. It\’s about
understanding that we are all programmed differently, and we need to
find the best way to work in order to enjoy the best way to live.
If you\’re thinking about starting a business, or you\’re questioning
your existing venture, review the following checklist to help determine
whether entrepreneurship is the best course for you.
Click here for a self-assessment.
The Entrepreneurial Checklist
If you had to prove to someone in an interview that you should
have permission to be an entrepreneur, could you? Interview yourself
and see if you and self-employment are a match.
1. I am financially prepared for the ups and downs of
self-employment. It\’s important to research what your business
activities will cost you before diving in. Even if you work out of your
home, there will be inevitable operating expenses, and a budget for the
costs associated with setting up and doing business (from business
cards to membership dues) is a critical first step to creating a solid
Think about the extra gas you\’ll pay for to meet clients for lunch. Or,
how about all those printer cartridges you\’ll go through in preparing
client information packets? And what does a web site cost, anyway? From
postage to DSL, estimate your monthly business expenses and have at
least six months\’ worth saved up before you begin.
Also, before taking on a business, it\’s a good idea to have your living
expenses under control, with adequate savings for unforeseen
challenges. While financial reward is a good motivator, if
maintaining you child\’s tuition or having food in the fridge is a
matter of whether you have a good month in your business, you need to
build up reserves before you leap.
2. I can handle almost any business situation with tact and
professionalism. We each have a personal history and way of interacting
with others that can make or break us in a client relations setting.
Clients will at some point be frustrated or frustrating. Can you handle
that with calmness and diplomacy?
Think about your general moods. Do you generally get along with clients
and colleagues, or do you encounter a lot of problems in these
relationships? Does it take extreme behavior from someone else to
really upset you, or are you frequently hot-tempered and likely to show
it? Are you easily offended, or can you shake off negative comments as
a heat-of-the-moment exchange?
We are all human, and we certainly all have our days where we wish we
had handled things more appropriately. But with entrepreneurship comes
the management of many relationships with a variety of people, from
clients to subcontractors to networking cohorts. If you can deal with
people effectively nine days out of ten, then you should be able to
sail through these entrepreneurial waters.
3. My overall personality lends itself to being a successful
entrepreneur.Your personality type has everything to do with being a
successful person in business. Are you an introvert who has a hard time
networking? Or, are you an extrovert who can easily close the deal?
Does your penchant for detail-orientation render you a reliable
resource or too fastidious for comfort? When you go the extra mile for
a client or colleague, do you need a “thank you” to feel appreciated or
is the satisfaction of a job well done enough for you? Are you a
natural relationship-builder, or do you struggle to make eye contact?
Understanding who we are can help us craft reasonable action plans for
gaining business. If you are an introvert, hire (or barter with)
someone to network for your company, or better yet, let a solid
Internet marketing campaign do the talking for you. If you are too
fussy with details, hire a client relations manager to create a more
easy-going client experience.
From how you interact with others to how well you manage time and other
resources, think about what characteristics you have (or that you need
to develop) in order to run a smooth and successful business.
4. I am self-sufficient and like to figure things out for myself.
Entrepreneurs are natural born problem-solvers. If they don\’t have the
knowledge, they meet the challenge head-on anyway. They get the
knowledge through learning. They hire the knowledge through
outsourcing. Sometimes they guess.
Plan for the fact that things won\’t always go as planned. You will need
to create solutions on the fly. So, if MacGyver made sense to you, you
probably have the creativity and tenacity to see your business through
its inevitable challenges.
5. I am comfortable with outsourcing to get the expertise I need.
Entrepreneurship is not about doing it all yourself, but rather about
doing what you do well, and outsourcing the rest. While you need to be
open to learning new things, you need “to know what you don\’t know,” as
the expression goes, as you\’ll save money by focusing your talent where
Think about it. Let\’s say you bill $40 per hour. Maybe it takes you 4
hours to research and download and set up the best accounting software
for your type of business. 4 hours of your time @ $40/hour = $160. On
the other hand, your networking buddy, a tech expert, has the knowledge
and expertise to do the same thing in 30 minutes, and he charges $60
per hour. If you hired him, you would have spent $30. By not
outsourcing, you\’ve lost $130.
Outsourcing does not come naturally to us. As much as we love to do
everything ourselves, the successful entrepreneur knows when it\’s time
to say when.
6. I have a great support system. Entrepreneurship can be thrilling,
but it can also be extremely draining. Establishing the business,
running the business and growing the business can leave you depleted by
the end of the day.
Sometimes you\’ll have to work off-hours or shake up the family schedule
a bit; can your spouse and kids roll with that? Sometimes you\’ll need
to just vent, as working in a vacuum can be pretty isolating; can the
people in your life lend you their ears?
Do you have a network like this in place? If not, fear not. You can
build one. Seek out other entrepreneurs; they\’re all over the place.
Look for supportive groups and places where like-minded people
congregate. Join a book club or go golfing. Recharge your batteries so
you can re-charge your business.
7. I have substantial industry knowledge and experience, and I stay
up-to-date on the latest updates and trends. Identify why a prospect
should hire you over your competitor. Take a look at your resume and
identify any holes. Can you plug them up with coursework, a seminar
series, or an internship (they\’re not just for college students
Are you prepared to join industry membership organizations, read trade
publications and attend relevant conferences to supplement your years
of experience? Maintaining up-to-the-minute information about your
craft positions you as a knowledgeable resource and credibility as an
expert in your field is essential to differentiating yourself in a very
Entrepreneurs are willing to put down the style section and pick up industry news. Are you?
8. I\’m very comfortable with marketing and PR. Do you understand how to
market and publicize your business? If not, are you willing to learn?
And if you learn, but feel you don\’t have a knack for it, are you
prepared to hire the skill set you need?
Marketing & PR are critical to gaining exposure and differentiating
yourself in an already crowded marketplace. Some business owners think
they should market at the very beginning, but at that time they don\’t
have a web site or even a business card to bring to market. Other
entrepreneurs say they\’ll start marketing when their businesses slow
down…but by then it\’s too late. Marketing while you still have business
coming in enables you to “dig the well before you\’re thirsty” and get
new prospects before you need them.
Selling your business concept may at first feel awkward, but keep
practicing. Of course, you need to get out there in order to have
people on whom you can practice. Think of every networking meeting as
your (non-medical) marketing residency. No blood. No guts. Just nerves.
Successful entrepreneurial marketing is an ongoing endeavor. It may not
always be easy or comfortable, but the successful entrepreneur does it
9. I can move past challenges relatively easily. Does an angry client
or negative feedback stop you in your tracks? Does a demanding project
cause you to consider shutting down the business? Does a snafu from the
printer cause you to shut down?
In point # 2, we talked about your ability to manage day-to-day
business situations. While you may have that mastered, how do you
handle the larger challenges that blow up in your face?
While we\’re all human, entrepreneurship is not for the thin of skin. If
you can embrace any challenge as 1) an opportunity to learn something
or 2) life just getting in the way sometimes, you\’ll be a much happier
and well-adjusted entrepreneur.
10. I understand that all entrepreneurs are afraid, but they do it
anyway. The biggest misconception among entrepreneurs is that each
thinks he is the only one who is ever afraid. They think other
entrepreneurs have it all together, while their own fraud and
ineptitude is sure to be found out any day now.
Here\’s the truth: if you\’re afraid, then you\’re an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship involves great risk, so fear is part and parcel of the
process. But you\’re not just afraid. You\’re also persistent and
hard-working, a dreamer and a doer. Courage is not the absence of fear,
but rather being afraid and doing it anyway. Going out on your own is,
of course, scary. There\’s no boss to blame, and it\’s your name on the
But then again, when you succeed, there no boss to take credit away from you, and it\’s your name on the line.