Archive for the ‘Employment’ Category

Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur?   Leave a comment

Despite the difficult economy — and in many ways because of it — entrepreneurship in America is alive and well. Take a look around you, on Main Street and on the Web. Even when unemployment is high and consumer confidence is low, there are new businesses opening as fast as others are closing. Many of them are being launched by people who lost their jobs and either didn’t want to, or could not, find another.

If you’re thinking of taking the entrepreneurial plunge, it’s important to know to what it takes to be successful before you make what could be the biggest financial and emotional commitment of your life.

Here are some ways to know if entrepreneurship may be right for you.

Are You Running Away from a Problem or Running Toward a Vision?

Some people feel they have no choice but to start a business when all they really want is to find a good job. A few of these so-called “forced entrepreneurs” may come up with the next big thing, but many don’t have the heart to be in a business for the long run. So do some soul-searching and figure out if you’re running toward a defining vision of your future as a business owner, or away from a problem. And if all you really want is a great job, you can learn how to find one much more easily than you can find success as an entrepreneur.

Do You Have Support?

Hillary Clinton was right. It takes a village — not just to raise a child, but to start a business. Before you start a business, you need to have a strong support network in place. It starts with your family. If your spouse/partner and children aren’t fully behind your idea, you have more work to do. If you can’t “make the sale” to them, how are you going to convince customers to buy from you, partners to do business with you, a supply chain to give you credit, and a bank to give you financing? Entrepreneurship starts at home.

Do You Have Deep Reserves?

Convention wisdom says you should have 6-12 months of living expenses in the bank to live on until your business becomes cash flow positive. That is not nearly enough. But most business failures happen because the owner runs out of cash, just at the time when in another few months they may have seen daylight. So have as much of a bankroll as you can to allow for unforeseen contingencies.

Do You Have Good Entrepreneur Role Models?

When you were a kid playing in Little League, what major leaguer’s batting stance did you imitate? Children always look for cues for modeling their behavior. Smart adults do, too. Look around your circle of family and friends for successful entrepreneurs and figure out what makes them tick. Do you have the same stuff? If not, can you get it? If you don’t know anyone personally who you can study, hit the library bookshelf and study up on people like Ray Kroc (founder of McDonald’s), Donald Trump, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Mary Kay, Howard Schultz (founder of Starbuck’s) and Michael Dell. Read their memoirs and biographies about them and understand the commonalities of all the greats.

Do You Have the Key Skills of Entrepreneurship?   Leave a comment

There are hundreds of things you need to know how to do to be a successful entrepreneur, but the most important ones are these:

High Risk Tolerance: You have to be able to stare into the abyss of entrepreneurial uncertainty and not falter.

Excellent Salesmanship: You absolutely have to have at least a little Steve Ballmer in you to be successful as an entrepreneur. You may have the greatest invention in the world, but if you can’t communicate its importance to a variety of constituencies (customers, employees, suppliers, lenders), you’re not going to succeed.

An Independent Temperament: Entrepreneurs consistently go against the tide. They start companies when others are retrenching; they don’t care about being rejected time and time again; and they trust their gut.

Great Negotiating Ability: If you negotiate well for everything from a store lease to contracting services to website design, you’ll realize that every dollar saved keeps your business in business through the peaks and valleys of cash flow.

Emotional Intelligence: This is a term coined by behaviorist and author Daniel Goleman. “EI,” as it’s often referred to, is a set of skills that allows you to understand and influence the behavior of yourself and others. Being able to listen, reason with and persuade is different from being a good negotiator but just as important.

How to Start Up While Still Employed   Leave a comment

A good hedge against the risks of starting your own business is to start up while you still have a job that pays a regular salary and benefits. If you’re in a position to do that, you’ll have the best of both worlds. There are some simple Do’s and Don’ts that can guide you as you walk a sometimes fine line between your career and entrepreneurship.

Do’s

1. Do consider running your business as a part-time operation alongside your current job. This is a great model because you’ll continue to have income and benefits.

2. Do understand and follow your employment contract to the letter, especially if it makes reference to inventions and intellectual property (IP) that you develop as part of your job. Almost always, anything developed on company time and using company property belongs to the company. If you do not have an employment contract, you’re still not in the clear. Check the company’s Employee Manual for references to ownership of inventions and IP. No manual? Ask your Human Resources manager or someone functioning in that role to explain the policy.

3. Do set aside cash reserves from the income your startup creates that can sustain you when and if you decide to leave your job.

4. Do be as open with your employer as possible. In fact, if your business is not competitive with theirs, see if you can turn them into a customer or client. You may even be able to get your employer to invest in your startup, or allow you to hold equity in a joint venture. If you think you might go the route of having an employer as a customer, investor or partner, get input from a trusted advisor such as an attorney on how to proceed.

5. Do clear the decks. If you are going to do your day job and your part-time business, that doesn’t leave much time for non-essential activities. Decide what’s really important and dump the rest.

Don’ts

1. Don’t use corporate computers or email systems to send any emails related to your business. Even if you log into your webmail account to send email, you still have problems: you are using their property to further your own business, which could present a legal challenge later. They may have the right to read whatever keystrokes you’ve entered, even if your emails were not entered on the company’s email system.

2. Don’t feel pressured to leave your job as your business starts to gain traction. New businesses go through life cycles and some early wins do not necessarily mean you have a sustainable enterprise.

3. Don’t choose a business that doesn’t lend itself to part-time involvement if you can only do it part-time to start. For example, opening a retail food store can be an all-consuming endeavor. If you are not reachable and not hands-on at the beginning stages, you are setting yourself up for potential failure.

4. Don’t talk about your part-time business to other employees around the proverbial water-cooler. This could be construed as promoting your business on company time. The silence rule extends to discussions on company time with your employer’s clients and suppliers.

5. Don’t be afraid to take the leap to full-time entrepreneurship when the time is right. Running a business part-time can be partly successful, but unless you are going to be a passive investor, the business will grow only up to a certain point without the full-time commitment of the owner.