You have a brilliant idea and have worked really hard to gauge the market need and product-fit. You’ve also figured out a way to organise the necessary funds. Have you determined your own fit with the prospect of being an entrepreneur? Here are seven questions to ask yourself.
1. Do you have the mental resilience?
Risk and entrepreneurship are synonymous and yet that’s not what one focuses on when making the leap. It is the prospect of success that’s alluring, but the reality of building something involves pitfalls and painful moments when it all seems to be crashing down around you. So you have to pick yourself up and build it back…until it all crashes down again. How quickly can you heal and shift gears from dejection to “solution-mode”? Do you have the resilience to rise, time and time again?
2. Can you (Give)^2?
In life, and in business dealings, the usual expectation is quid pro quo/ “give and take”, or some such leitmotif. But in building your business, many times, and in many phases, it will involve “give and give some more.” After working harder than you’ve ever done before, can you also pay out money versus cashing in a paycheck? Scott Galloway, professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a serial entrepreneur, puts it best – “Can you sign the front, and not the back, of checks?…especially when you’re already investing your blood and sweat into the business.
3. Can you survive the devil that’s in all those details?
Do you enjoy, or are you at least able to tolerate, “depth” in work? Especially in the early stages of a start-up, an entrepreneur wears many hats, and until one is in a position to have functional leaders and departments, they have to learn many aspects of the business in depth. Working on a consumer start-up? Having your brand strategy and go-to-market plans is not enough. You might also have to understand contracts, purchase orders, billing, shipping and warehousing, the process of hiring a broker for customs clearance, barcodes (!), all at more than just a cursory level. It is about getting your hands filthy so your decisions can be clean (or at least, as clean as possible).
4. How well do you deal with non-sequential, quick-paced decisions?
Especially true if you’re switching over from a big or even mid-size corporate where processes are established and “best practices” involve certain steps and recommended sequences. With limited budgets, start-ups don’t just require that you skip a few steps, it could involve dumping a process altogether and dealing with the discomfort of making decisions with much less information than you’re accustomed to, and much faster than you’ve been taught or told is “the right way”.
5. Can you adjust to a new set of social circumstances?
Your business will likely become your focal point – your obsession. It needs to be. But it is easy to exacerbate your isolation if you fall into the spiral of “they don’t understand what it takes”, and avoid your social network. In addition, there is also the loss of (conventional) status – designation, perks (no longer a “Platinum” hotel guest or airline customer!) that can enhance the sense of “social disconnect”. Can you thrive in this adjusted reality and maintain your support networks?
6. How do you learn when the onus is on YOU?
The need to continuously learn and get better is immense. However, startups have few structured opportunities for training, unlike organisations of size. There are no established feedback loops and folks appraising your performance. How you grow and become better, whether by creating a network of mentors and peers, or developing expertise by signing up for classes on an online platforms, and/or how you carve out the time for your growth and development – that is all entirely on you.
7. Can you work by yourself and also without a single moment to yourself?
Hunkering down on your business plan until the wee hours of the morning, shouldering the responsibility for making critical decisions – all this makes for an isolated life. While WeWork (notwithstanding its recent troubles) and other shared spaces offer some relief by bringing together like-minded people, entrepreneurship can still be an incredibly lonely business. On the other hand, as you grow and build a team and have to be the “face” of your business for PR, sales pitches, supplier meetings, and conferences – it can be a difficult time for introverts, where any sort of “me-time” could become a rare luxury. Wherever you lie on the introvert <> extrovert spectrum, you will, many times, have to operate on the other end of the scale.
The rewards of building something you own are immense. But going in, know that the investment you make will go way beyond just dollars and time!