Can anyone with a great business idea become a successful entrepreneur? Is a marketable product or service all it takes to launch your own start-up?
If you're in business college right now (or thinking about enrolling), and dreaming of becoming your own boss one day, this post is for you.
We combed through expert articles from sources like Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Huffington Post to boil down 5 questions every student should consider before going out on their own.
Do you have what it takes to weather the ups and downs of entrepreneurship? What skillset is involved in getting a business off the ground? Let's take a look at the fundamentals.
1. Are you driven to do more, learn more, and take the lead?
Effective entrepreneurs are thinkers. They're always looking at the angles, figuring out how a product could be made better, a service delivered more effectively, a system designed more intelligently.
Think about your current job (or past employment situations). Do you often notice things that just aren't being done optimally, and feel compelled to do something about it? Do you often take the lead, and suggest or initiate improvements you know will drive more sales, or serve the customer better?
Natural entrepreneurs are always striving to do and be more—they're excited to learn and grow, and are exceptionally hard working. They are not satisfied with the status quo.
They want more responsibility, so they can make higher-level decisions, and achieve their vision of how things should be run. This drive is often what motivates people to pursue their own business.
2. Are you ready to work harder than you ever have before?
There is a common misconception that when you run your own business, you'll automatically have the luxury of setting your own hours, and working whenever you want. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Every advice article we looked at talked about how entrepreneurs have to "wear many hats", and worker harder than ever before. This includes tasks like:
- figuring out and doing your own marketing (website, social media, live events, online advertising, etc.)
- sorting out your finances (how much to charge clients, tax obligations, bookkeeping, etc.)
- paperwork (setting up and maintaining client files, saving receipts for expenses, etc.)
- figuring out health insurance
- chasing clients who may owe you money (being your own "collections department")
You've got to put in the work to get the glory. Being your own boss means taking on much more responsibility than you would have working for someone else. This is why having passion and drive is so important to making it as an entrepreneur.
3. Are you an independent problem-solver?
Entrepreneur.com highlights independent problem-solving as a key attribute for budding business owners. After all, when you're sitting at your desk, all by yourself, and a client makes a special request (or complaint), you'll have only yourself to turn to.
Sure, you might have friends and mentors to ask for advice, but at the end of the day, it's you in the driver's seat. You are fully accountable to your clients, and must resolve any challenges that arise.
Is there a problem with shipping? You'll have to solve it. Is a client unhappy with your product or service, and has posted a negative review online? You'll need to deal with that. Did your website crash at 2am? Better get on that!
Entrepreneurs must be prepared to take the good with the bad. Being able to work through problems on your own, calmly and professionally, is a key requirement for this career path.
4. Are you passionate about your business idea?
All the experts agree: passion for a new product or service idea is absolutely key to start-up success. If you're not truly excited about this venture, you can bet no one else will be either. Plus, you'll need that passion to fuel the long hours of hard work ahead.
The next crucial thing to consider: Is there actually a market for your product or service? Who will you target and where?
Forbes contributor and business expert, David Domzalski, urges budding entrepreneurs to "develop a master plan" before they dive into the deep end. This plan should confirm that there is indeed an audience for your product or service (whether you're selling online or in-person).
Plus, you should familiarize yourself with the industry—who your competitors are, and how you will stand out in the crowd. Passion alone won't be enough to drive sales. You will need to think strategically, like a business leader, to get your idea off the ground. This is where you'll apply all the skills you learned in business college, plus a few more you'll need to pick up along the way.
5. Can you handle financial uncertainty?
There is no doubt about it. Financial ups and downs are a very common reality for entrepreneurs. Some months, everything will be great: you'll have new clients coming on board, orders will be up, cash will be flowing in.
And then, suddenly, you lose a client. Someone doesn't pay on time. You come up short to meet your expenses at the end of the month.
People who go into business for themselves have to be smart about money. When you're just starting out, there is a lot of uncertainty around cash flow. You'll need to save wisely when things are good, to cover periods of drought. It will be important to plan ahead, particularly if you are responsible for a family, have a mortgage to pay, etc.
Bottom line: you will need to be comfortable with a certain amount of risk and financial insecurity, particularly as you're getting your venture up and running.
What's the key takeaway here? There are big pros and cons to becoming your own boss. But if you can handle the heat, there are tremendous rewards waiting on the other side. Imagine knowing you created something all by yourself, and really made it fly?
Nothing is more satisfying, and self-affirming, than putting faith in yourself and watching it blossom into success.
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