Scott Stropkay decided to start his own business soon after leaving a good position for what seemed to be an even better one. After rumors that the division he was hired into would be sold, Stropkay was laid off, and his career path was left at a crossroads.
Having always been interested in pursuing his own business, Stropkay took the entrepreneurial plunge and started Essential Creativity, a Boston product design and consulting company. "The way I see it, the best chance at job security I can have is to work for myself," he says.
Whether starting your own business is something you've always dreamed of or it's one option after an unexpected layoff, there are several points to consider before striking out on your own. Jan Norman, small-business newspaper columnist and author of What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business, offers wisdom gathered from the 101 successful entrepreneurs she's interviewed.
A New Business Is Like a New Baby
If you're a parent, you know how your baby changed your life in ways you never anticipated. You may have envisioned parenthood one way, only to learn how different reality can be. The same principle applies to your startup. Your new "baby" needs constant attention and will keep you up at night. But with your commitment, time and energy, it will grow and hopefully make you proud.
Entrepreneurial Interests Don't Equal Success
You may be absolutely passionate about your professional interest, but if the rest of the world yawns at your proposition, your business should probably remain a hobby, not an income source.
Do people want your service or product? Do you have the interest and ability to constantly market it to new consumers? Your passion and skill form the foundation of your startup, and your business skills must carry it to success.
Not Everyone Is an Entrepreneur
Can you live with uncertainty? Can you delay gratification? Are you persistent? Can you bounce back after disappointment? Can you find creative solutions to problems? Are you in good health? Starting your own business is, quite literally, not for the weak of heart. Entrepreneurs need stamina to persevere in the face of the setbacks and failures they will inevitably face. Be honest about your desire to live the life of a not-yet-successful businessperson.
Even the Boss Takes Out the Trash
Working for yourself can be liberating -- no boss to answer to or office gossip to listen to. But there's also no receptionist to screen your calls, no cleaning service to tidy up your office and no technical support staff to solve your computer glitches. New entrepreneurs often neglect to prepare mentally for the unwanted roles they must take on to keep their businesses up and running. If your ego can't handle the small stuff, you may have problems adjusting to this new identity.
It's Going to Cost You
Starting a business can be a huge financial drain until you become profitable. Think seriously about whether you have enough money saved to survive without an income for one or two years. If you have a spouse or partner, discuss how you will handle this financial change. Not only will you be spending a great deal of money on this new venture, but you will also be spending a great deal of time on it. If you don't have support and encouragement from the important people in your life, your startup may be a lonely, uphill battle.
Despite such challenges, Stropkay's company is doing well. His client list is growing, he's added staff, and most importantly, he's making money.
And the company's future growth? "Actually, if we can make it now when times are tough, there's no stopping us when the economy inevitably recovers," Stropkay says, illustrating the most important entrepreneurial trait of all -- optimism.