You want to be your own boss and see your ideas come to life. But, knowing how to get a small business started is different than imagining it in your head. In your head, everything will go off without a hitch. Starting a new business in real life, though, can be intimidating if you aren’t prepared for the worst.
Before I started my business, I had to stop and ask myself some questions. I put together these six questions you should ask yourself before launching your small business startup.
Starting a new business
If you want to start your own business, you’re going to get a lot thrown at you. See if you can answer these six questions. Trust me, you’ll want to think of a lot more than getting your business off the ground if you want to be successful.
1. Who are you? What is your background? What’s your education and work experience, and how does that complement your new business?
This group of questions may feel rudimentary to you, but there are no questions more important than those only you can answer after honest self reflection.
You might have a great idea for a product or service, but, be honest; what is it about you that makes you so certain you’ll see this idea to its completion?
Think about whether you’ve had any experience in business. Are you organized enough to create a quality business plan to get funding? You will want to take your education and knowledge in the industry into account as well.
Are you a risk-taker, willing to risk everything on starting a new business? Consider your personality and decide if you will be up for the constant change and chaos that owning your own small business will bring.
So again, I’ll ask—who are you?
If you were in front of me right now, how would you convince me that you have what it takes to start and run a business? Are you convinced? If you have faith in your idea and the stamina to make it through the hurdles, you might be ready to start your own business.
2. Do you have the physical health and strength to withstand the rigors of starting/running a business?
I don’t mean to sound morbid, but being your own boss means doing everything you do already plus doing everything that goes into running a business—which can be very physically demanding. Good health is going to be important when starting your business, and it can be difficult to maintain when you’re busy all the time.
The small business life is one of long nights, early mornings, no weekends, no sick days, and no excuses. Your small business will, at times, feel like nonstop work.
Perhaps the job you’re doing now already feels that way and being your own boss would at least mean you’re in control. Or, perhaps the strain of keeping so many small business plates spinning sounds like far more effort and stress than you care to take on.
Whatever your job is, we can agree that work takes its toll on us over time. The more you work, the less time you’ll have for necessities, like taking care of yourself, planning meals, getting to the doctor, and all the other things you need to do to stay healthy.
Remember, the first and best asset you have in this new business venture is you. If you’re not in a condition to run a business, consider waiting until you are. And, after starting a new business, make sure you take the time to care for yourself.
3. What is your family situation like? Will you have time to start/run the business? Is there a strong chance that family needs will pull you away?
Perhaps you are starting a new business because you want to design your schedule around your family. Maybe you expect your family to help you run the new business and work alongside you.
I believe in putting my family first. I care about their needs more than I do the needs of my business. After all, a person works to live, instead of living to work.
Running a business is demanding, and there will be times when your family will have to sacrifice time with you so you can focus on creating the life you want for them by way of your business. It’s a delicate balance, and boundaries will be tested.
Find out where your personal and professional boundaries stand before you start your business. Ask your family what their expectations are for you and your business. Tell them your own. See where you share common ground. Your family must understand that, even though you are working from the garage, you are still working.
4. Who are your key employees? What are their backgrounds?
There is no force more destructive for your business than a bad employee. Early on (especially if you’re growing fast), it’s tempting to hire whomever you can get. But, employees are not robots. They need effective training and monitoring.
You may not be able to demand the best, most-experienced employees when you are just starting out, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence. A bad choice in an employee can lead to all kinds of disasters in your business. This is one of the critical small business lessons I learned when one of my employees burned down a laundromat.
Your key employees will be trusted with responsibilities that could make or break your business, so they need to be qualified and dependable. You might want to consider creating an employee handbook. Think about how you’ll pay employees, what you’ll pay them, and how you’ll run payroll.
If you’re considering starting a business with friends or family, you might wonder if they’ll easily slot into a role you have in your head. However, you want to make sure you thoroughly discuss the responsibilities and expectations from both sides. Figure out how you’ll train them and treat them like any other employee.
5. Will you secure investors and lenders for your business? If so, what are their backgrounds and relationships with you?
This should go without saying, but you really should know who you are taking money from. Not just their name, but their track record and financial orientation.
After 30 years of running my businesses, I’m not the biggest fan of debt. Business debt management is stressful, but very few small businesses can get off the ground without some form of it. Debt can put you in someone’s pocket. On the other hand, debt can provide a boost to help you achieve your dreams. As long as you’re borrowing from someone who is trustworthy, understands what you’re trying to accomplish, and the time frame in which you plan to accomplish it, debt may be an acceptable option.
If you are going to receive investments or take on debt, make sure you know the financial situation of the investor. If they have an immediate need for money, will they demand repayment before you’re ready? Do they expect you to make them rich? If they are friends or family, how much damage would your inability to pay do to the relationship? Make sure you understand their terms and conditions.
6. Who is going to do what, and why? What will you do (e.g., will you be the sales arm of the business)? If you have a partner, what will your partner do (e.g., would your partner be better at running the inside operation)?
You want to be your own boss; we’ve established that. But, you’re not just going to sit at your desk all day with a coffee mug that says “World’s Best Boss.” If you are, and you’re going to get paid for it, sign me up!
Most small business owners are working owners. Often, as the owner, you’ll have to do a little bit of everything to make the business run. But, you should discuss with your co-workers, partners, and investors what you’ll be focusing on so that job responsibilities are clear.
You may be the boss, but you may also lead the company’s sales efforts, manage the hiring department, and run the payroll programs. If that’s the case, you’ll be expected to pull your weight in key areas, as well as manage the overall operation.
Before and after starting a new business
These questions aren’t static. You should ask them often—before and during your business’s lifetime. Change is constant. Your life may be stable before you start your business, but as variables change—family issues come up, partnerships dissolve, investors change, etc.—there will be a need to re-evaluate. You’d be amazed how fast time flies once you’re the boss and engrossed in something you love.