By Michael Kline
Should you start your own business? Probably not! Since my column is usually a little longer than two words, I am willing to expand upon the short answer and consider other possibilities. To say probably not, is an answer based on the probabilities and you are not limited by probabilities. Most people in the throes of making such an important decision are told the odds are against them. It is commonplace to hear that ninety percent of all businesses fail. This is mostly nonsense.
Think for a minute about where statistics come from. If you rely on government statistics, you could compare the number of Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) issued, vs. the number of businesses that file tax returns, and you would have meaningless data. There is no cost and very little effort to get your EIN, after which, you may decide against opening your business. This is not a failure, but would factor into the statistics described above. You could consider the number of businesses who setup a LLC or Corporation, and again, incorrectly assume that each one no longer in existence was a failure. Perhaps the business decided not to start, or perhaps, the owner was using the business as self-employment, like a job that they owned. Like any job, a self-employed person might decide to make a change and go to work for someone else – does that define their period of self-employment a failure? I think not. I invite you to treat statistics like a weather forecast – pay it some respect, but do not let it control your decisions. There are times when I can accurately see a deadly storm approaching that is a client’s business plan, and more often, I see some potential for a storm, for which you would want to be prepared. Forecasts aside, it is always a good time to create your own future.
Creating your own future does not require being your own boss, but it does require knowing who you are, what your values are, how you want to be, what you want to be, do and have in your life. These are huge questions, often ignored by first-time entrepreneurs, while every mature, successful businessperson I know, upon reflection would suggest that time spent on these topics would be time well spent, indeed. So when do we get to the good part about making a living?
The degree, to which you make a living, is proportionate to three factors. Be of service to others, have a clear mission and vision and a passion for the work.
- Be of service to others. Do not take it personally, but the world does not really care what you like to do – at least not enough to pay you for it. What you do also must be of service to others. Service is a loosely defined term; if you are an artist, you might provide the service of enjoyment. How much enjoyment, to how many people are just two of many elements of the equation that will determine your business success in that endeavor. Look at your business idea from your future customer’s perspective of what they want or perceive as a need that you can serve. Stop presenting your idea in terms of what you like to do and why you think the customers need it. Your perspective takes a back seat to the customers’ perspective. I have bad news for your ego. Being self-employed, you will have many bosses in many forms. While you get a voice and a lot of freedom, eventually, all your new bosses come before your ego.
- Have a Clear Mission and Vision. When your retirement day comes, how will the world be different from how it is today? My partners and I recently spent three days in retreat, mostly to answer this question. Any other work required clarity of our vision before we could make progress with any sincerity. Our vision, by the way, is that of a “more flourishing world”. This is easy to value, remember and share with others. Your vision is simply a statement of what the world will look like once you have accomplished your mission. The simpler it is stated, the simpler it is to focus on and to share it. Our mission statement was the result of having clarity of our vision – our mission is to help people flourish. Very simple and supportive of our vision of a more flourishing world. Once you have a mission and a vision, it creates unusual clarity and focus; tenants of every successful business. (Suggested reading: The Power of Focus, Canfield, Hansen & Hewitt).
- Passion. There will be tough times. No, really. There will be tough times you cannot imagine. I’m talking about voices in your head, monsters in your stomach and apparitions of the devil before your very eyes. Without passion, few people possess the level of discipline necessary to do the hard work when everyone around them is losing their minds, the money is rushing out the door and the only light at the end of the tunnel is an on-coming train. If you’re going to own your own job, have a very strong commitment to the “why”.
Michael Kline is a Certified RIM Facilitator and Success Principles Trainer. You can reach him through his website www.intus.life, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.