If you have a burning idea, an invention, or a marketable skill that you feel is under-utilized in your current position, then you might find yourself dreaming of starting your own company.
It’s a bold move and can be simultaneously one of the most challenging and rewarding things you’ll ever do. Sometimes it will be amazing, and you’ll love every second, but it can also be emotionally draining and take a massive toll on every aspect of your life. Ask yourself whether you enjoy starting something from the ground up, and watching it grow? Are you prepared to shoulder the responsibilities of owning a business, employing staff and selling to the general public? If you think that one day you’ll regret never taking the plunge, and 2020 has you itching for a life-change, then read on for some of the pros and cons of starting your own business.
You might be poor. Like, really poor.
This is not something to be taken lightly. Never start a business without having a few months (or preferably years) salary in your savings account. There will almost inevitably be a period of time – and it will be more than you want – where you aren’t earning any money. Many entrepreneurs don’t bring in a cent for the first few years. If this will cripple you financially then, even if your idea is in the zeitgeist right now, is it worth taking the risk? Finances can be one of the biggest causes of contention in a relationship. You will almost certainly be better off waiting until you have savings prepared and working long hours for free won’t leave you unable to pay your bills.
Lack of guidance.
Starting a business is lonely. There’s no one to talk to and, whilst your friends and family might have your back, they won’t be going through the ups and downs like you will be. If it’s your company, there’s no one else to take responsibility and make the final decision. Before you take the plunge, see if you can have an honest conversation with someone who has been in your position. They don’t necessarily need to be in the same market as you and, in fact, you might find it more difficult to speak to someone who will be a potential competitor. But it’s worth working out who you need to talk to and, if possible, finding a mentor who has also started their own business recently. The pitfalls and victories will be fresh for them, so their advice will be current. You might aspire to be Jess Bezos, but Amazon have been around for a while. Make connections with other local businesses in your area and get some guidance.
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Being master of your own destiny is a thrilling prospect, and one of the main reasons most people start their own business. However, it does mean that you have to be responsible for creating a structure and systems out of nothing. How hard does failure affect you? If you’re a pretty resilient person and can take criticism and setbacks on the chin, then that’s a great starting point. It can hit people hard though, and that’s something to be aware of – especially if a mistake, or just bad luck, means that you lose your own or your family’s money.
You will also need to ensure that you look after your own mental health and wellbeing alongside your organization. There’s no manager to tell you you’ve done enough for the day and take the hit for the work not getting completed. The buck starts and ends with you as the founder and if you’re not firing on all cylinders, then that’s a problem. It can be tempting to sink every hour of every day into the business and, sure, especially in the first few months, there may be periods of time when that needs to happen. But remember, quality over quantity. If you aren’t looking after yourself, then the hours you’re putting in won’t be worth anything. And there won’t be anyone to tell you to take a break but you.
Networking is everything.
To some people, this might be a positive part of owning a business – if you’re naturally gregarious, love meeting new people, and have a way with words, then you might find networking a breeze. But there will be days when you’re just not in the mood to schmooze, but there’s a meeting or a pitch that just has to happen and you’re the person for the job. There may also be people in the industry who you just don’t see eye to eye with, or who rub you up the wrong way. Even if, the majority of the time, networking comes very naturally to you, this won’t always be the way and you’ll inevitably sometimes have to do it when you just don’t want to. Networking is absolutely essential for your career and business though and just isn’t avoidable. So, fix on that grin and get out there.
Choosing your own destiny.
If you’re even reading this, then you’re likely to have a streak of innovation and leadership in you. So many people are happy to walk the same path as many others before them, enjoying the regularity and stability of the nine-to-five without wanting to rock the boat. If this is what brings you happiness, then it’s for sure the most secure way of living. But, if you find yourself questioning the direction your organization is taking, second-guessing the decisions of senior management, and thinking to yourself, “I could do this better,” then you might just have the fire in your belly for starting up your own business. You won’t have to answer to anyone else, and you can forge your own path rather than walking in the well-worn tracks of those going before you.
Technology is on your side.
Gone are the days of manual invoicing, and figuring out every last job yourself. Now, there are easy ways to reach a target customer base, such as Mail Chimp, send invoice, and so much more. There are digital platforms for pretty much every aspect of business so, whether you want to simplify sending your invoices, host an online shop, generate mass marketing campaigns, there will be a website and a company that can help you. It’s worth shopping around though – whilst it’s tempting to go for the market leaders, smaller companies are now doing the same work as those which once dominated the market. Do your research to make sure you’re getting the best price for your company.
Continual learning and upskilling.
This is one of the more exciting parts of the job. Having a good foundation of business skills, such as financial literacy, marketing, understanding of technology and strong communication and negotiation skills are obviously a great starting place. But there are other skills that you can be the person to pick up in the organization – if that’s what you want to do. Have you always wanted to learn some graphic design? Or have you got a musical flair and can compose the jingle for an ad? Whatever it is, you now have the opportunity to utilize your creativity, as well as take courses and classes in other, business-related skills. Just make sure you aren’t overloading yourself and know when to take a step back and bring in professionals in if needed – everyone has seen The Apprentice candidates trying to shoot ads…
Picking your own team.
We’ve all worked with a colleague we just didn’t get along with. When you start your own business, you never have to do that again! Sure, there might be investors you might need to schmooze and the bank manager you ask for your loan from is terrifying, but your employees – the people who will make your business come alive – they are people you get to handpick yourself. Selecting the right team of employees is key and remember, outsourcing is always a possibility. For example, if it would be more expensive for you to hire someone to take responsibility for your marketing and social media presence, you can outsource this to a specialist marketing company.
With all the cons listed, this might feel like a bit of a flimsy pro. However, never underestimate the rush you’ll get with every success that is a stepping stone along the way. A launch party, a new product, your website – all these are bricks in the wall of successful entrepreneurship. It’s important to mark them in some way and, if you have employees, make sure you celebrate with them.
It might seem like there are more cons than pros here, and that they are problems you don’t want to face, but no business starts without a few stumbling blocks. Make sure you do your research – check out how other companies similar to yours started, as well as common mistakes that get made by first-time business owners. If you work hard, there’s no reason yours can’t be one of the great success stories.