For every would-be entrepreneur, there comes a time where you’ve done all the planning and prep work you possibly can. You’ve taken your time, you’ve asked all the right questions, and there’s seemingly nothing left to do but get started. Yet, there’s still that nagging doubt. Maybe you’re missing something. How can you know that you’re really ready to start your business?
Starting a business is a scary prospect, particularly if it’s your first time. Can you really trust your gut instincts when that same gut is also filled with butterflies? It helps to have some outside confirmation that you’re truly ready to roll.
In this post, I’ll talk about four simple tips for knowing if you’re ready to turn your well-planned business idea into a real business.
1. Try talking yourself out of it. I’m a big fan of trying to talk people out of doing things as a form of stress-testing their interest. I can be a pretty persuasive guy, so if I can’t shake someone by telling them all the reasons they shouldn’t do something, it gives me real insight into their level of commitment.
Several years ago, I brought in a partner to help me run one of my businesses. He’s a great guy, and I thought he would be a great fit for the company. At the same time, he was transitioning from a very corporate background, and joining the company would have presented a substantial professional change for him. I wanted to test his mettle, because the future of the company would depend on how well he handled the pressure of being an owner of a smaller shop, rather than an employee of a corporate giant.
The first half-dozen meetings we had, I kept trying to convince him that this might not be the best move for him. I told him some of my horror stories, and about how many tries it took me to get a successful business off the ground. I played up the setbacks, the headaches and the risk. I did everything I could to scare him away.
It didn’t work. He couldn’t be scared away, and instead he only became more interested by the challenge. Ultimately, he was the right fit, and it turned out to be a great partnership. If you try to talk yourself out of doing something, using all the most powerful ammunition you have, and then you still want to do it, that’s a great indicator that you’re ready to get started.
2. Refine your plan. I’ve talked at length about how to plan your business, from testing your startup fit to raising money, and it goes without saying that every step in the planning process is important. One important thing to keep in mind is that your first attempt at a business plan should never be set in stone. It’s a living document, and the more you revise and refine it, the better it will be.
Chances are that you’ve learned a lot since you wrote that first draft. Maybe you’ve had to rethink your revenue model, or you’ve had to rethink your growth timeline. Perhaps you’ve decided to place a greater emphasis on sales, and had to rework the financials so that you’re not as dependent on getting a loan or seed money. It’s important to document the most complete and recent version of your plan, just so you can see how all the pieces fit together.
The more up-to-date that plan is, the easier it is to communicate the specifics to others. That’s important for pitching your business to investors and partners, but it’s also vital for seeking advice. The more clearly you understand your plan, the easier it is for you to sort relevant guidance and good ideas from the chaff of generic business platitudes.
3. Make connections. Few things can be as isolating as starting a business, but the reality is that you are never alone. There are always other entrepreneurs to talk to, and a surprising number of them are more than willing to offer a little advice or help from time to time. You may also encounter “connector” type personalities, who can be incredibly helpful for introducing you to the very people you need to talk to.
Most active and growing communities want to attract and support entrepreneurs, and many of them provide some wonderful resources. The trick is knowing where to look. Community colleges are often a great resource for this. Here in Western North Carolina, for instance, the Kauffman Foundation does some great work with our local community colleges. You might also have a SCORE chapter near you, which is an incredible resource for finding business coaches and mentors.
4. There is no better time than now. Just like most things in life, there’s really no perfect time to get started with a business. There is never a “right time,” and if you wait for one to happen, you’ll miss out on all the progress you could have had if you started today.
It’s kind of like starting a family, because there’s also never a perfect time to have kids. I’ve started businesses in my 20s, when I barely knew anything, and in my 30s and 40s. I’ve started them when I was single, and after I got married. I started them before I was a parent, and after I had a houseful of kids. The specifics change, and the challenges are different, but the process really doesn’t change as much as you might think. The important part is that you get started.