After 18 years in the corporate world, I struck out on my own as an entrepreneur, informally in 2003, and officially in 2007 when I launched Ellia Communications.
I am infinitely happier, more fulfilled, balanced and healthier as a business owner — rather than working in the corporate world for someone else, selling someone else’s products that I didn’t believe in. I realize now that, from the beginning of my career at age 22, I was completely wrong for the corporate thing – I hated (and failed miserably) at office politics, couldn’t suffer fools lightly, dreaded be locked into my four walls and going to the same office each day, suffered through the tediousness of committee decision, longed to use my creative talents more authentically… the list goes on and on. I know now it’s the right thing for me to be on my own, creating and marketing my own products and services, and leading my own organization. It feels very right.
But despite my years of high-level corporate marketing experience and overseeing multimillion dollar budgets for national products and services, there were thousands of things I didn’t know about marketing and running my own business, such as how to effectively sell yourself as the product, and how to get over the discomfort of making money from helping people who are often in distress.
I’m supremely proud of what I’ve created with Ellia Communications, and where it’s going. But I’d like share a few vital questions that I wish I’d considered prior to embarking on the hero’s journey of having my own business.
Seven questions to consider before launching your business:
1) What is Your Professional Style?
Explore deeply all of your preferences as a professional. Think about what you love to commit to, and what drains you, the type of structure you thrive in, and the conditions that make you miserable. Answer these questions:
What are your ideal preferences in your worklife:
Structured or flexible organization
Hierarchical or egalitarian model
Type of people you work with
Type of products/services/programs you wish to contribute to or promote
Hours you wish to work
Pace of Work Environment
Prefer leading or following
Prefer solo or team endeavors
Financial compensation you wish to receive
Vacation and other benefits you wish to have
Your primary goal in working
If your answers to these questions follow a more traditional path (such as wanting 4 weeks of vacation yearly, reliable and consistent salary and benefits, slower pace, working no more than 8 hours per day, etc.), being an entrepreneur may not be for you.
Overall, you need to know: is it a job or a “calling” you want? If it’s a job, or if you’re looking for security, consistency, and stability, and very little risk, I’d say having your own business isn’t for you.
2) Are You Running Away from Something?
Starting your own business shouldn’t be about running away from your previous professional problems. If you’ve had bad bosses, faced discrimination, betrayal in the workplace, suffered in other ways in your corporate career, you need to address these experiences satisfactorily, and resolve your emotions around them, before launching a new business endeavor. Otherwise, these problems will follow you in one form or another to your new venture.
3) What Do You Truly Value in Work?
It’s vitally important to understand what you value in life and work. A great question that will help you understand your core values is to ask yourself,
“When I’m 90 years old, looking back at my life, what do I want to have accomplished, stood for, given, and be known for?”
Think about your deepest values, and if you’re honoring them today. If not, why not?
I’ve observed that many folks who break out on their own — and make a true success of it — value the following:
Being Catalyst for Action/Change
Decision-Making/Power to Influence
Freedom; Independence; Autonomy
Mental or Intellectual Challenge
If you value a majority of the above qualities, you might be a great candidate for launching a successful small business. (See my specialized Career Path Assessment for a full exploration of work values and preferences.)
4) Can You Market Yourself?
When you’re in business for yourself, it’s a 24/7 job to market and promote yourself and your products/services. You simply cannot do this sitting alone in your office, connecting with no one. You need partners, affiliates, networks, vendors, suppliers, associates, clients and customers. Most importantly, you need power, confidence, and clarity to market yourself effectively, and to stand out against the competition – to brazenly communicate how fantastic your services (products) are, and why folks should hire you. You have to “name it and claim it” or you’ll get lost in the crowd.
So many consultants and entrepreneurs I know fall down in this area – they are simply too timid and lacking in confidence to get out there in the world and sell themselves. Or they have no idea what separates them from their competitors (or why anyone should hire them). If you’re shy and feel you can’t promote yourself effectively, there’s important work to be done to help you overcome this block.
(To help entrepreneurs on this front, I’m co-delivering a powerful new branding workshop with branding expert Robert Friedman, Founder of Fearless Branding. See Ellia Communications Seminars/Workshops for more details.)
5) Do You Have the Energy For This?
Starting and maintaining a successful small business requires more energy and commitment that you thought possible. What’s your energy level today – do you have the ability and energy to commit yourself to birthing this baby, and bringing it to fruition? If your will is there but the energy is lacking, explore what you can do today to begin to restore and replenish yourself. You’ll need vast amounts of positive energy if you want to make a go of it.
6) How Risk-Tolerant Are You?
Being an entrepreneur requires stepping into the abyss without a net – the risks you face are huge, and never-ending. If you can’t tolerate risk, think again about starting a business.
7) What is Success to You?
Finally, think about what “success” really means to you. Dimensionalize it, categorize it, claim it. If it’s matching the corporate salary you used to make, that may take time (a great deal of it), and may not be a sufficient motivator to generate success as an entrepreneur.
If, however, success means any of the following to you, starting a business may be just your line of work:
Do you want:
- Control over your choices, decisions and actions
- Greater ability to choose how you balance work and family life
- Leadership expertise
- Freedom to follow your own creative visions
- Ability to contribute to the world in a meaningful way that only you can do
- Using your creative talents as you wish to
- Your own unique voice to be heard
- The thrill of birthing your own “child” in the form of a business
- Passion, power, and purpose in your work
- Feeling deeply aligned every day with your professional life
If the above resonate for you, now might be the perfect time to consider formulating a plan to launch your new business.
I leave you with this: If you cannot not do it, then now’s the time to move forward.