As a new professional, I never expected to start a business. In fact, the mere thought was terrifying. I knew I still needed to prove my worth in the industry and was worried what seasoned professionals would think of a new graduate trying to squeeze yet another company into the market. As I gave myself a chance to consider the idea more freely, I realized I was already on the path to entrepreneurship. Now that we’re past the first phase, the work hasn’t gotten any easier but my confidence has improved. The journey has been interesting thus far, and here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way for anyone who wants to do the same:
Coming up with an idea for a great company is easy; actually starting one is not. While I’m happy with the decision I made to start a company, the decision wasn’t taken lightly. It’s easy to discuss a good idea, but you have to put in a lot of time and effort to make it happen. If you truly want to go the entrepreneurial route, you need to ask yourself if you’re ready to commit because a lot of planning goes into creating a sturdy business. Imagine the people who go on the show, “Shark Tank”. They have great ideas, but get hammered with questions regarding the vision, proof and future of their business.
So now you’ve got a business plan and you’re committed. What’s next? Learn everything you can about business. Everything that I wasn’t interested in before — accounting, business taxes, legal documents — I had to learn it all. These are extremely important steps in starting a company and you can be penalized for not following through correctly. So research, research, research until you know everything there is to know.
You’ll want to quit, but it’s never over unless you give up. Determination is a magical quality to possess. People may be excited initially about a project or an idea, but after the newness of it wears off, it still needs to be worth their time. Know that if you truly believe in what you’re doing, a closed door won’t hold you back. As one of my favorite videos of all time says,
The brick walls are there to keep the people out who don’t want it badly enough.
–Randy Pausch, “The Last Lecture”
Understand negotiating skills. This is important for entry-level professionals as well as business owners. It never hurts to ask. For entry-level job seekers: You know you’re worthwhile, and so do they if they made you a job offer. As a business owner, one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is to stand your ground. When you’re new, you may want to jump at every opportunity, but if you are doing the work, you should be getting paid a reasonable amount. Your livelihood is on the line.
If you’re starting a business just to be your own boss, to ditch the 9–5 schedule, to sit around in comfy clothes or to get more personal recognition, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Although some of these may be perks from time to time, they shouldn’t be reasons you want to be in business for yourself. My work hours are sometimes longer than 9–5, and I have to network constantly to gain a spot in an overcrowded market. My work ethic is this: Work until you get the job done, then exceed it. Whatever it takes — ethically — to get my business where I would like is what I will do. Note: As your own boss, the ethical line can become blurry. Make sure you know your boundaries and stick to them. A good resource: the PRSA Code of Ethics.
While networking and meeting people face-to-face is vital, prepare yourself for people to show a lot of interest, but a smaller amount of follow-through. No matter how much networking you do, not everyone will want to hire you or use your services. It’s important not to be afraid of failure because those connections may want to work with you in the future or teach you a valuable lesson. Recently, at an entrepreneur event, I had an embarrassing moment that I will never forget. I was caught off guard by a question, and the woman asking was quick to call me out on it. I stopped, took a breath, started over and regained my composure. These moments will happen, but you have to power through them.
Last, but not least: Live your dream. No matter what stage you’re at in life, do what makes your heart beat. Determination, inspiration, enthusiasm and positivity are qualities no one can take away from you. If you know it’s worth it, take the leap despite all odds. I don’t believe everyone can run a business, but I do believe everyone has ideas and potential that will take them far when they follow their heart. Taking ownership for the work you do, whether self-employed, joining a company or starting an internship, will boost your potential for success.
Have you ever thought about taking the entrepreneurial route? What are some of your biggest concerns of starting a company?