The New Entrepreneur

The New Entrepreneur

(11/8/2007)
by Lea Strickland

Today’s
entrepreneur is yesterday’s business executive, computer programmer,
staff accountant, public relations specialist or any of the thousands
of job titles and specialties you find inside of corporate America.
The changes in the traditional business models, the trend to outsource
and off-shore operations, has lead to the outplacement of many of the
mainstream business processes.

As
a result, more and more individuals are faced with taking a new
approach to financial stability/security and to finding the best
"career" path for them – entrepreneurship. Setting up your own business
isn’t a stopgap between jobs; instead it is the first step to achieving
a number of objectives:

·  Free Agency

·  Financial stability

·  Control of outcomes

·  Control of work content

·  Work/life balance

·  Meaningful work.

 

These
are just a few of the rewards of having your own business. They don’t
come easy and the learning curve is steep. Because no "specialist"
coming out of the traditional corporate world is fully prepared to take
on every facet of the business, every person stepping into the role of
entrepreneur embarks on an odyssey of learning. Regardless of the wide
variety of responsibilities you have held in the corporate world, as an
entrepreneur you have ALL the responsibility

 

Whether
you are a programmer, a project manager, a senior executive, a lawyer
or an accountant – whatever your specialty – you enter into business
typically to provide the service (or product) you know best. What you
don’t know is "total" business. And the truth is you don’t know what
you don’t know!

As
an entrepreneur, you most likely start out solo or with a few friends
or colleagues of like background. Let’s say you are project managers.
You know how to do everything related to juggling the many tasks and
resources of funded project. You can read basic financial reports,
coordinate marketing roll-outs, and a hundred other tasks and subtasks.
But chances are, you can’t generate all of the data necessary for the
financial reports, do market research, generate market statistics,
produce a prototype of a product, set-up equipment for the production
line, and so on.

As
an entrepreneur (especially solo) you are accounting, marketing, sales,
customer service, and the technical expert. You are boss and
subordinate, executive and front-line staff. How well you juggle the
roles and tasks determine how successful you will be.

As you start out there are many things you need to think about, plan for, and understand. Here are a few of them:

  1. Personal
    1. How much effort are you willing to put in?
    2. How much can you invest in the business? (financially and emotionally?)
    3. How much do you spend each month on your household expenses?
    4. How good are you at establishing your own priorities and following through?
    5. Are you a "self-starter"?
    6. Do you work well alone or do you need others?
    7. Are you going to work out of your home?
      1. If you work from home, will you be able to "separate" work from home life – interruptions, etc.?
      2. Where do you plan to work?
      3. Are you going to setup separate phone, fax, and computer lines?
    8. How long can you go without cash coming in from your business?
    9. How do you think you are going to feel about not having income coming in immediately or sporadically?
    10. What will the impact be on your family, good or bad?
    11. If you need additional resources to live on while your business is getting started, where can you get them?
  2. Business
    1. What type of business – product or service based?
    2. Are you going solo or working with others?
    3. Are you actually starting a business or are you going to be an independent contractor working through agencies or both?
    4. What restrictions exist on the type and nature of the work you can do that are holdovers from past employers?
      1. Geographic
      2. Line of business
      3. Business process
      4. Intellectual property
      5. Other
    5. How extensive is your existing business network?
    6. How
      much money are you going to need for initial start-up costs (legal,
      tax, equipment, stationery, marketing materials, software, etc.)
    7. What areas of business – excluding your specialty if it is accounting, operations, etc. – are you familiar with?
    8. How much research have you done into legal and tax structures?
    9. How much do you know about pricing?
    10. How much do you understand about marketing, sales, and public relations?
    11. How well known are you in your area of expertise – not at all? Locally? State-wide? Nationally?

Well,
you get the idea. There are a lot of personal and business issues to
consider. The personal choices and realities impact if, how, when and
what type of business you start. You may look at the dollars you need
to setup your business and find that the initial outlay is around
$2500, over the first year you may need to spend $20,000 on getting the
business established. Your personal standard of living may be another
$60,000 for the year. If it takes you a year to get to positive cash
flow in your business beyond what you need to reinvest in the business,
do you currently have $80,000 available to fund your first year?

There
is a sense of accomplishment beyond anything experienced working for
someone else, when you establish a successful business – built on
"you". Coming through the adventure of learning "what you don’t know
you don’t know"; making the mistakes; learning to get not just the
sale, but the payment; building the business operations and delivering
the product or service; then seeing the first $1 of profit on the
bottom-line – that is a reward beyond price. When you work for you, you
experience the down-side and the up-side, and the up-side looks great!

So here are ten recommendations for those of you considering joining the ranks of "The New Entrepreneur":

  1. Take the time to gather information on legal structures of business
  2. Talk to other entrepreneurs – solos and those working with others – at various stages in the entrepreneur process
  3. Read, read, read books and articles on business
  4. Talk
    to trade associations, business groups, networking groups and find out
    what the business climate is, what resources they offer
  5. Look
    for classes (not just the free ones) that take you through the
    processes you need to understand – accounting systems, marketing,
    business plans, and so on
  6. Interview potential business partners, service providers (CPAs, lawyers, marketers, trainers, consultants, and coaches)
  7. Seek out mentors that have gone through the process and are willing to advise as you go along
  8. Get
    good business advisors (at least one "total" business consultant that
    can advise you on how different options will work for you – this person
    ideally will help "translate" the advice of CPAs, lawyers, and other
    specialists and work with you to develop your skills and abilities in
    running the business)
  9. Prepare to make mistakes – you’ll learn more from them than the successes
  10. Find
    a network of friends, colleagues, other business owners that you can
    rely on for support and "connections" (This is especially important for
    solo entrepreneurs – you need to stay connected.)

There
are a lot of reasons to not to start your own business, to not to take
on the challenge of entrepreneurship. It truly isn’t for everyone.

There
are even more reasons to start your own business. It is challenging,
dynamic, terrifying, exhilarating and exasperating. In the space of
day, you can go from the peak of achievement to the despair of not
closing the deal you’ve worked so hard on. As time goes on and you
increase your business expertise, you get more "stable" in that you can
plan for and offset some of the worst lows. And one day you may just
find that the highs occur more often than the lows and the lows make
the highs much better.

Lea Strickland, MBA CMA CFM CBM,
President/CEO of F.O.C.U.S. Resources, is an international business
consultant, author, speaker, and commentator on business issues and
trends.  Her clients include emerging technology companies,
not-for-profits, and government grant recipients and contractors for
whom she designs funding strategies, management systems, and compliance
programs to leverage grant funding into the financing equation.  She is
the author of SBIR Basics: The Numbers and Out of the Cubicle and Into
Business,  One Great Idea! and Marketing Strategies. She can be reached
at 919.234.3960 or
Lea@focusresourcesinc.com or visit the website www.focusresourcesinc.com.

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