By DANIEL PEARSON
Many people, at one time or another, have thought about running their own business. Being your own boss, setting your own hours and making all of the decisions sounds enticing, but it’s also one of the biggest challenges you will face in your career if you do decide to take the entrepreneurial path.
But how do you know if you have what it takes to start and run your own business? That answer will be different for everybody, but there are a few things everyone needs to get in order before you make a drastic career change and take the plunge into becoming an entrepreneur. For instance, Christine Clifford, author of “You, Inc. The Art of Selling Yourself,” said you first have to ask yourself a few questions.
“Can I offer something unique that no one has done before?” she said. “Is there any area in my industry or field that is untapped or unfulfilled? Do I have much competition? Can I put a new twist on my product, service or cause that will appeal to a broad range of people? If you can answer these questions, fill a need and take a risk, you’re in business.”
Sound advice for any fledgling entrepreneur, but how does someone make the transition from thinking like an employee to thinking like an entrepreneur? Here are five tips to get yourself in the mindset of being a business owner and problem solver.
GET TO KNOW OTHER ENTREPRENEURS IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Having a mentor or two is crucial when starting any new venture, whether its business, learning to play an instrument or trying to earn a college degree. You need to surround yourself with “big picture” people so you can start thinking more clearly about how to see the “big picture” in your own field. Manhattan Life Coach Julie Melillo said that as an entrepreneur if your business fails the blame rests squarely with you, so it’s important to learn from seasoned veterans in your field.
“You’ll need to learn approaches for boosting your confidence, and realize that a failure or mistake doesn’t mean that you are a failure or a mistake,” Melillo said. “All entrepreneurs will fail at times. It comes with the territory.”
You need to surround yourself with “big picture” people
READ, READ, READ
Just because you don’t have a business degree doesn’t mean you can’t learn the principles of how to run a successful business. There are thousands of books with tips, advice and formulas for being a successful entrepreneur. A good place to start is subscribing to magazines like Fast Company and Entrepreneur – both easy reads that will help you get into the mindset of owning your own business.
Daniel Alarik, a former infantry drill sergeant and current owner of Georgia-based Grunt Style LLC, which sells premium gear and apparel to the military, said his biggest challenge was learning how to think like a business owner after spending most of his career in the military.
“I started with reading three to four business books a month, which I still do, and I got a business mentor or two,” he said. “But this is the entrepreneurial thinking that sets us apart. It’s not your products that will start your business. It’s sales. I’ve seen a lot of great ideas and products that never make it into business because the owner doesn’t want to or is afraid (to learn how to sell). You’ll never be in business that way.”
THINK IN TERMS OF FILLING NEEDS
You have to get to know who your competition is and what needs exist in the marketplace, so that when you are starting out you’re not offering a product or service that already has significant barriers to entry. John Paul Engel, founder of Knowledge Capital, an Iowa-based firm dedicated to helping companies achieve profitable growth, said finding an existing need in your target market is all you really need to start a business.
“You have to pull together resources by partnering, bartering, or whatever ways you can think of to solve the needs of other people,” Engel said. “The best way to start thinking like an entrepreneur is to start a small business, even if it’s simply converting a hobby into something more. I believe business is about service. The more you serve other people the better your life becomes. It’s not about money but about helping people.”
BE WILLING TO TAKE RISKS
Portland, Ore.-based marketing consultant Simon Tam said it’s best to use the Harvard Business School definition of entrepreneurship: the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled. In other words, if you really want to venture out on your own and become an entrepreneur you have to enter this new phase of your career with complete confidence, and not be afraid to fall on your face at times.
“Someone who is willing to take risks and has initiative has the right kind of mentality,” Tam said. “There are ways to cultivate the skills and attitude — a lot of great books, life coaches, and seminars on the subject — but it all begins with choice: choosing the right attitude and taking that first step.”
PRACTICE PATIENCE AND LONG-TERM THINKING
Ian Aronovich, CEO of GovernmentAuctions.org, a website that compiles and provides information about government auctions of seized and merchandise from all over the U.S., said the easiest way to break the mold is to realize that whatever someone else did, you can also do as long as you are willing to be disciplined enough to execute your plans and have the confidence to live with a less-perceived certainty.
“Being an entrepreneur is not an overnight experience,” he said. “Having success on your own terms takes time, tremendous effort, and a burning desire to be self-sustaining. Not everybody fits the mold. If you have always been a business savvy individual, you are surely destined for the entrepreneur lifestyle. Will you succeed in your endeavors? You will never know until you take the plunge, but it definitely helps to think positively.”