If you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit as I do, you have an internal drive that helps you in your journey as a business owner. It’s a “je ne sais quoi” motivation — hard to put your finger on, and yet, it’s there. You can feel it move you forward and keep you on track.
For the most part, it’s a very positive thing. However, that same force, in my opinion, has some negative qualities as well.
It makes us anxious. It makes us antsy. It causes us to lose our patience and along with that, some loss of prudence and necessary thoughtfulness. It makes us leap without looking. It pushes us off the cliff.
I belong to many entrepreneurial-minded Facebook groups. And in every single one, there are younger, newer entrepreneurs that are chopping at the bit for success. They can’t wait!
But that’s the problem: They can’t wait. Their eagerness is a double-edge sword, because while that hunger is incredibly good and, dare I say, necessary for success, it also causes them to be — well, I’ll just say it — stupid.
From the frying pan into the fire — quitting your job to run your own business
I can’t tell you how many of these entrepreneurs decide that they are going to quit whatever is their day job — their main and primary source of income — to pursue their “dream.” And rather than exciting, I find that troubling. I’m equally dismayed by the number of home-office chair “business” (but more like hobby) owners with Pollyanna tendencies who encourage them to leave their job.
Obviously, I’m not one of those. I believe that’s the worst advice. These wet-behind-the-ears entrepreneurs are being set up for failure by their own colleagues. It makes me wonder if they are all, albeit secretly, failing, and they don’t want to go down with the ship alone, so they’re dragging their follow fledglings with them.
Usually, when I see such a post on Facebook, I pop in a comment of “Don’t do it, and here’s why,” and thankfully, I’m not alone… but our voices of reason are overwhelmed by encouraging affirmations to take the full leap from employee to self-employed.
It’s so easy to sit behind a computer screen and tell some stranger you don’t even know to “go for it.” But what I also hear from many of these new entrepreneurs are questions with histories tied to them like this (and I kid you not):
“I only have $5,000 left in the bank, and I don’t have any clients. Should I use it to buy a Facebook ad as a last-ditch effort to save my business?”
“I’ve been trying to run my own business, but now I’m down to nothing, and the rent is due in two weeks. What do I do?”
They’ve gone from “I’m leaving my job!” to “Help! I’m running out of money!” And is it any wonder? They were encouraged to leave their main source of income too soon, and now they are paying the price.
The further answers and advice to these posted questions makes me cringe even more:
“I would buy the ad.”
“You can’t give up now!”
“Have you tried writing a blog?”
Have financial support from the start
Folks — When you start a new business, one of the most crucial things you’ll need is “support.” Now, support comes in many ways — and you’ll need all the help you can get to be successful. No man or woman is an island, it’s said. And no successful man or woman starts a business without support.
So what does “support” look like? In one form, it comes as care from other human beings — mentoring, teaching, “being there” for you mentally and emotionally. That’s very important.
But, it also comes in the form of financial support. That, too, can come in various ways. Some people have spouses or live-in partners that can carry the financial load while the significant other starts a new business. The couple can live within the means of one, while the other starts the business.
Or, as was my own case, I started my business young, in my early 20s, and I still lived at home. Having a paid-for roof over one’s head and utility bills already paid certainly helps when starting a business. I took advantage of the situation by taking my father’s advice and socking away every dollar I could and putting them into high-yield CDs. Four years later, I had enough money not only for a down-payment on my own home, but also enough to pay for my own wedding — and my at-home business was off to a running start.
But not every one has that sort of virtually “built-in” financial support. Most budding entrepreneurs are single, live on their own, and have a mess of financial obligations. Some are parents caring for young children. Seldom are these people financially secure enough to own their own business straight out of the gate.
Yet they take that dreaded leap, and ultimately, they find themselves within the 50 percent of businesses that fail within the first five years. That’s right — HALF don’t make it. Only about a quarter are still in business 15 years later.
I also must take this time to warn the new entrepreneurs out there — most businesses take three years to become successful. THREE YEARS. A successful business doesn’t happen overnight. It takes knowledge, energy, hard work, and time to build a finically viable business.
I’m happy and admittedly proud to say that, now in 2018, I’ve operated a creative services business for more than 30 years. But never did that happen without support. And sometimes that support was a job. Yes! I’ve been an employee many times while also running my own business. Is that shocking? Or, does it make sense?
Sometimes I worked my business part time. Sometimes I worked it full time. Sometimes my business was just a side gig to a full-time job as an employee. But always, its success was directly related to its financial support. Right now, it supports itself financially. But at other times, financial support had to come from other sources — especially at the start.
Stuff happens — stay flexible
Nicely put, STUFF HAPPENS. People get divorced. They move. They have children. They get sick. Loved ones die. You can suddenly face, at any point in your life, an unforeseen, unexpected financial burden. To dig your heels in, stand steadfast, and say, “I’ll never work a job again while I have my own business” is foolish at any stage of career or life you might be in — whether you are just starting out as a business owner or you’ve been already at it for a while.
So what I tell small, budding entrepreneurs is this: Don’t leave your day job. But don’t abandon your “dream” business either.
Instead, turn around your mindset. That job you “hate” needs to be the job you “love,” because it supports your dream. The hate quickly will drive you out of that job by pushing you all the harder to turn your business into a success. The realization that this job you hate supports you will help you love it and keep you in it, at least until the business can support itself.
That’s the goal. You want your business operating and chugging along independent from any outside support before you take the full leap.
You will also want to have your personal finances in order. Ideally, you should have at the very least 6 months of income saved up — and a year’s worth is even better. When you can free yourself of financial worry, it allows you to concentrate and focus better on making your business a success. That’ll be hard to do — nearly impossible — if you always have the stress and anxiety of trying to pay your bills and survive every month.
I also want to caution that creating financial support by taking on loans and increasing your debt is not the way to go. Imagine digging a hole, jumping in it, and then having to climb out with one hand. Essentially, when you create debt, that’s what you do to yourself and your business, which really, when you think about it, is an extension of you.
One of the best pieces of business advice I learned was from a tortilla company’s owner here in Chicago, who said he never used loans to get where he was, and he became wildly successful. Do businesses take out loans? Sure, all the time. But should you? Probably not — especially when you are just starting out. Don’t set yourself up for a harder road than the one you already have in front of you.
How to start your business so you can leave your job
So if you are currently employed in a full-time job and you want to start a business, here’s my advice:
Work your business’ ass off around that job and let that job financially support what you ultimately want to do.
Use this time to create your business’ foundation. Write your business and marketing plans. Build a client base. Work out any bugs in your business system and model. Get others to know you and your business by offering your services or products for free or at a very low cost. Generate excitment about what you do. Create some positive word of mouth.
As the business starts to support itself, you can back off the job. You can get a less stressful, part-time position, and up the hours you spend on your own business, accordingly.
If you work your business this way, before you know it, you’ll be at a point when you can totally say goodbye to the “j-o-b” and simply work your own successful business — one that promises to last for a good, long time.
Keep in mind — if you need help, that’s why LaCroix Creative is here. We help businesses of all sizes with their creative marketing. And if we aren’t right for you, we will help you find someone who is. We fancy ourselves like Kris Kringle in the 1947 classic movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” by proverbially sending you to other stores if Macy’s doesn’t have what you need! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you really should, so watch it on YouTube by clicking HERE!)
Keep supporting your business, and eventually, your business will return the favor.