Could 2021 Be the Year You Finally Become Your Own Boss?
Perhaps you always dreamed of starting your own business, but the notion failed to evolve beyond dream status because you didn’t have the money or the nerve you felt you needed to pull it off.
Maybe — as was the case with many people — 2020 proved disastrous to your career aspirations when the company you worked for downsized or shut down altogether.
Either way, 2021 could be the time to ask yourself this question: Are you finally ready to go from employee to entrepreneur?
For someone who lost their job this year, it might be an easier call because they aren’t giving up something to make the move. This could be the perfect opportunity to finally give in to any entrepreneurial urges.
On the other hand, those still employed can’t help but be cautious. Leaving full-time employment with its relative security, regular paycheck, and benefits is a different matter and requires facing your fears with a certain amount of mental strength.
After all, no one can guarantee you success and the odds may appear stacked against you. Just look at the stats. About 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year, and half succumb by year five, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While you should be aware of those statistics, don’t shrink away from them. I’ve been in your shoes, launching my company in 2005. I know what you’re feeling, both the excitement and the trepidation, and I have a good idea about the kinds of things you're likely to encounter as you move forward. So, let me offer some advice:
- Weigh the decision carefully. Starting a business requires risk, but that risk should be calculated, not reckless. While I agree you have to commit to any endeavor for it to succeed, I’m also pragmatic enough to know that the risk must be balanced. That’s why I recommend you have a comfortable safety net before you jump. Chances are, debt will outweigh income at the beginning. Therefore, for those currently employed, take advantage of the income from your full-time position before you cut ties completely. In other words, adhere to the adage that advises “keep your day job” — at least until your new gig shows it has legs.
- Consider doing what you already know. Many successful entrepreneurs (though certainly, not all) achieved their success because they started a business in a field familiar to them. They had worked in it or already had expertise in it, perhaps because it involved a favorite pastime that they had been involved in for years. (For example, an amateur golfer who opens a golf shop.) When you’ve seen an industry from the inside, you likely have acquired a keen understanding of both its potential and its constraints. Of course, not everyone who starts a business has an extensive background in that area. Perhaps in some cases they just recognized a trend in consumer behavior and moved to take advantage of it. In the cases where budding entrepreneurs do have extensive background knowledge, however, it can make for a more solid transition and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
- Be ready to adapt. One thing that separates successful businesses from ones that fail is the ability to adapt as the circumstances change around them. Last year certainly put everyone’s abilities to adapt to the test. I’m fond of this saying: If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less. Being adaptable doesn’t mean just introducing a new product or service to your realm of offerings. It requires constant attention to what’s going on in the world, analyzing your competitors, and, most importantly, not getting too comfortable at the top of the pyramid.
Ultimately, though, the only way to truly find out whether you can succeed as an entrepreneur is to do it, no matter how unsettling that first step might be.
Making the shift from the steady life of a full-time employee to the unpredictable world of running your own business takes smarts, guts and support. But is it right for you?
You’ll never know unless you embrace the risk.
Adam Witty is the CEO of Advantage, a marketing company that helps busy entrepreneurs, CEOs and professionals write and publish a book to become the authority in their field.
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