For many, it is a dream “to be your own boss” and enjoy the freedom and rewards of entrepreneurship. Sadly, for the vast majority, entrepreneurship remains just a dream.
It takes a certain drive and adequate tolerance for risk to succeed as a business builder. Even if you have all the elements in place, there is no guarantee of success. You can, however, greatly increase your chances of successfully launching a business venture, if you can surmount the following challenges:
- A lack of capital and a means to support yourself during the launch phase of the business.
- A lack of adequate focus and energy to build momentum.
- A lack of expertise and support of a team to help navigate the complexity of running a business.
The initial challenge; a lack of capital, is the primary reason most won’t take the plunge to launch a business. Most new businesses won’t turn a profit for 3-5 years. This requires a sizable cash reserve to cover start-up and living expenses while the business is being built. If we have built a large lifestyle from a previously successful career, making the jump will be all the more difficult. If possible, pair down your personal overhead and create a less costly lifestyle. Once that has been achieved, know the bare minimum income you can live on. Also, have a clear idea of the start-up costs and business overhead to launch and operate the business.
In my case, I had built a nice lifestyle from the corporate sector of employment, complete with a beautiful home, vacation homes and a number of “toys”. There was no way I could have successfully launched a new business venture… or should I say, I did not have the confidence. Then the recession hit and I lost my cushy corporate position and no one was hiring. After a number of months, I lost everything. The lifestyle I had built, had a voracious appetite and it was gobbling up all my personal assets. Soon, I was living in a small apartment and all I needed to survive was less than a quarter of what I was earning before. I took the savings I had left and launched an agency, representing building material manufacturers. I did earn a profit my first year…less than $4,000, but I was clear on what I needed to survive, so I subsidized my profits with some of my savings. Fortunately, the company’s profits grew exponentially during the early years and 10 years later, Wickizer & Associates is still growing and generating a very nice cash flow.
Cash flow is the life blood of any business and the lack of cash can even impact a profitable business. The key to a successful business launch is to start with adequate cash on hand to handle the fluctuations and seasonality of your business cycle. Another critical component is to manage you accounts receivable so that you are not beyond 30 days collecting the revenue from your product or service.
The next challenge, a lack of adequate focus, contributes to the demise of many start-ups. For some, the business venture begins as a “side hustle”. The business is launched while maintaining employment. This can work in some cases, but most often, there is not enough bandwidth to take care of both the job and building a business. Building a successful business takes an incredible amount of time, energy and focus to get it off the ground. Like a rocket on a launching pad, most of the energy and thrust is expended during the launch phase. Launching a business is no different. It is critical to assess and account for the amount of resources and energy required to get your business off the ground.
Launching a business is not a sprint, it’s more like a marathon. If you don’t have adequate passion for what you are building, you may fatigue from the incredible amount of energy expended. Most new business can’t be launched on a mere 40-hour week. Take stock of the passion you have for the new business and be honest with yourself regarding the bandwidth you have available.
The final challenge is a lack of expertise and support, which points to the intellectual capital required to grow and manage a successful business. In the building industry, it is not uncommon for an employed building contractor to branch out and start their own contracting business. They have the trade skills to do the job, but often the skillset to handle the administration and operational aspects of the business is severely lacking. To successfully operate a business, some degree of knowledge is required in; sales & marketing, accounting & finance, operations, human resources and industry regulation. No one has the capacity to hold all the knowledge required to fully operate a business, so we must attract those who have the knowledge we need to be on our team. There is a myriad of “experts” we can hire to help in the areas we need support. Furthermore, we can add coaches & consultants to assist in seeing “blind spots” we may overlook. Even at the conceptual phase of the business, it is helpful to bring in a team of counselors and experts to help with the planning and start-up.
I love entrepreneurship and feel very blessed to have businesses that provide a livelihood for myself and others. It was one of my best decisions. It was not easy, but well worth it!