You woke up this morning thinking: I’m ready. Today’s the day. I’m starting my own business. Next thought: Where do I start? Don’t fret. We’ve got expert advice from one of our regular blog contributors, John Rampton, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” to help you get started.
Take it away, John!
I remember that feeling. Excitement. Anticipation. That feeling you get when you’re about to or you’ve just finished building something from the ground up. For me, that inexplicable “Christmas morning” feeling still happens even after many years of developing and then selling a few companies.
At the same time, I was especially nervous and apprehensive about whether I really had it in me to make it as an entrepreneur rather than just graduating university, getting a job in my field and continuing to go the traditional career path that would take me up the predictable ladder of company positions. Reflecting on the barriers and failures as well as the opportunities and successes I have witnessed and worked with, fighting like a fish in an upstream current, I feel I have the experience to pass on some wisdom to all and any aspiring entrepreneurs out there. Take heart.
Here are three pieces of entrepreneurial advice to consider before becoming your own boss.
1. Reading everything about how to be an entrepreneur doesn’t prepare you for being one
When I became interested in launching and running my own business, I pretty much read every book I could get my hands on. I listened to any audio recording of successful business owners that I could find so that no time for learning would be wasted while I was driving. While I learned a lot, it still didn’t prepare me for the reality of making decisions about strategy, budgets, hiring, marketing and everything else that goes into making a business into, well, a successful business.
The research I conducted wasn’t much help when it came to the roadblocks I hit along the way. But, that’s okay because I realized that my path for me is what was supposed to happen. If you take on the role of an entrepreneur, you need to experience all of the successes and failures for yourself because there is no way to know, recognize, or describe all the possible scenarios that are bound to happen. You’re bound to have some fun, but you’ll also stumble and maybe even fail once or twice. However, you have to go through these experiences rather than just picture it from someone else’s point of view. In the process of the experience you gain on your own, you’ll discover things about yourself that you may have never learned otherwise. So yes—read, study, and research—but then get out there and act on the steps needed to get your new business off the ground.
2. Combine Peter Pan’s wonderment and love of the fantastic with Captain Hook’s brute force
In other words, be imaginative, playful, and creative but stay alert and don’t let anyone take advantage of you along the way. When people meet me or see me on a panel, they see a happy guy who likes to joke around and smiles a lot. This good-natured personality has served me well because it gives me that Peter Pan mentality to help me ride out storms along the way by relying on my imaginative and creative side—and my happy side. Stay happy.
Nothing will tear down your heart faster than being depressive or feeling sorry for yourself. Plus, the playful approach that I take on instantly puts people at ease. This has worked for me when dealing with everyone from investors and potential customers to the people on my team. However, what I learned was that I also have to pull the Captain Hook side out of me, when necessary, to make sure I don’t get walked on.
The business world can be cutthroat and full of people who try to take advantage of those who are a little green around the ears. I had to learn quickly when it was the right time to be calculating, aggressive, and, well, maybe just a little scary. There are people who will try to steal your idea, time, and money, especially if you’re new to the business world. Let people know that you’re serious and are not to be messed around with. Just be in touch with both sides, knowing how to always stay in control and knowing when and how to use these emotions to your best advantage.
3. Don’t hesitate or put off switching career gears because the timing just doesn’t seem right at the moment
You’ve been mulling this idea of becoming an entrepreneur over for some time, but are you still hesitating? The pros and cons list you made still shows the pros slightly ahead but you’re thinking about all the cons, all the time. Other than the voice of doubt in your head, perhaps others are whispering their concerns in your ears. So you wait—after one more year of saving money at that 9-to-5 or until after you get married and (hopefully) have two incomes to fall back on.
The reality of constantly moving your timeline back is that you won’t save that money and that you will get married but then there’s a baby on the way. In reality, no time is the right time except right now. Thoughtfully make your plan to transition to an entrepreneur but then act on it. Do not put it off—do not dream away your idea—and definitely do not just set your future up on a shelf. I didn’t wait half as long to act as some people I’ve seen, and I now realize I should have, and could have, become an entrepreneur even earlier.
You can do all those other “things” in your life like marriage, family, travel and more later. But you can’t necessarily become the entrepreneur you want to be if it becomes too late for you personally. You can become what you are searching for and what you want to become, right now. Just know that once you take the step toward entrepreneurship, the rest will fall into place.
This has been my experience and it’s why I’m sharing these three pieces of entrepreneur advice. My story may not be your story though. I look forward to hearing what happens to you as you become an entrepreneur and what your advice for other entrepreneurs will be when you make it.
Either way, your path is up to you. Move forward, and act.
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John Rampton is an entrepreneur, author and contributing writer for Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, Inc., and The Huffington Post. Don’t miss his recent post on our beloved former CEO, Dave Goldberg on Business.com.