QUESTION: I’m thinking about starting a new business and becoming an entrepreneur. What are the most important things about which I should be concerned?
ANSWER: There are three important attributes of an entrepreneur. They are:
- Adaptability: One thing we can tell you is that no matter how meticulously you plan, you will need to adjust.
- Persistence: Almost every entrepreneur faces difficulty. Only those who stick it out through the hard times will succeed.
- Work ethic: To succeed as an entrepreneur, you will have to work hard.
You will need a concrete plan for dealing with three very practical issues:
- Possess the skills to do the primary work of the business (or if you possess only some of the required skills, partner with someone who has a complementary skill set). It may sound like remedial counsel to say that before starting a business, the owner should be able to do the primary work of the business. Yet, we’ve known many people who have charged headlong into an entrepreneurial venture without having thought this issue through clearly.
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One of most often overlooked, yet necessary skills is the ability to sell. For most startups to survive, the owner will have to sell. It is unusual for a startup business to succeed if the owner(s) lacks the ability to do the primary work of the business.
- Have a plan for performing the ancillary functions. If you love baking cakes, don’t open a bakery. Get a job as a baker. If you are going to start a company, you had better want to run a business. That means you’ll have more to do than just the primary work of the enterprise. If you are running a bakery, you’ll do a lot more than just bake. You’ll have to wait on customers, order supplies, set up a bookkeeping system and administer it. You will perform administrative functions. You’ll probably need some sort of IT infrastructure and the list goes on.
Getting these ancillary functions right is critical to the survival of the business. Yes, some of the ancillary functions can be outsourced, but you’ll need a plan for accomplishing each of them.
- Realize that growth means you will have to let go. Perhaps you are contemplating going into business because you are passionate about doing the primary work of the business. Good, you’ll need that passion. But remember, if your business is successful, it will grow. The time will come when you’ll have to delegate doing the primary work of the business to others, stop growing, or hire someone to run the company while you continue doing the primary work of the business. Before you launch your new venture, know which path you’ll take. Be prepared to deal with success.
Starting a new business is an exciting journey. But, as with any journey prior planning can help you avoid disaster. Make sure you have thought through the three critical issues above.
Doug and Polly White have a large ownership stake in Gather, a company that designs, builds and operates collaborative workspaces. Polly’s focus is on human resources, people management and human systems. Doug’s areas of expertise are business strategy, operations and finance.