THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Resolve this: Make your own company in 2011
Feeling stuck? Uninspired? Perhaps it's time to start your own business.
Get a good idea
Starting a business is high-risk. Most entrepreneurs fail. So minimize your risk by honestly evaluating whether your concept is valid and marketable. Remember, just because you like your idea doesn't mean there's a market full of buyers for it, so do your research. Tip: your mom's opinion doesn't count because she's biased.
Assess your personality
You also need the right personality to run your own business. You must like people, and people must like you– so you can get them to do what you want. You need to be able to make fast, confident decisions, and you need to be organized so that you can give clear direction to others. If your product launch flops, you are the one who has to tell everyone why the company is still on the road to success. If you can't rally the troops, you need a business partner.
You also need boundless energy. When you own the company, you set the pace and the standards. Remember the day at the office last month when you were upset and tired from worrying about your personal life the night before, so you surfed the Internet all day? Relaxing, wasn't it? You can't do this when you own the company. Most small business owners work 80-hour weeks and wish they needed less sleep.
I have these traits. And I started a business. I raised funds and hired employees, and, surprise, the company was successful and I eventually cashed out. But I paid a high price. I worked almost every waking minute. When cash-flow was poor, I worried not only about my own paycheck, but about the paychecks of my employees. When cash-flow was good, deal-flow was heavy, and my workload doubled even though I was already maxed out. While I was negotiating the sale of my shares, my hair started falling out. (I didn't know this happened to women, but apparently it does, usually from intense stress.)
Fortunately, most small business owners are optimistic. And I am, too. I bought some Nioxin to make my hair grow back. And once I regained my former full mane, I started another business.
It failed. And I lost a lot of the money I made from the first business. There were many reasons for the failure: Bad timing, bad economy, and maybe, in hindsight, bad idea.
I invested only the money I could afford to lose. I had no kids and no mortgage. I lost my loot from my first company, but I didn't lose my shirt: I kept enough to live on for a while longer.
Think of starting a business as gambling: When you go to Vegas, never bet your plane fare home. Once my company closed, I enlisted a resume-writing service to help me frame my business flop as a career hop to the next level of management.
Fail quickly and move on
Most business leaders fail once or twice before hitting it big. Think of failure as a necessary career step, recognize when things are going poorly, fail fast, learn, and get another idea.
To those of you with the right personality, I say bring it on! You will be pleased that you turned tough economic times into an opportunity for fulfillment. And even if you fail, remember that statistics indicate you are most likely to succeed when you are doing something you love.
Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more. She penned this column several years ago, but she's busy with new things–- too busy to write new things.