Deciding when to launch your business

skydivingLook before you leap

I often say, “Starting your own business is a lot like sky-diving – it seems like an exciting idea, but you’re not likely to do it until you’re pushed out the door.”

In my own case, I had literally been pushed out the door of a technology company (AES Data) that was winding down and my number came up. Not a surprise, since I had spent the previous nine months closing facilities and letting people go, but it was a painful experience, nonetheless.

I quickly had two other corporate job offers from Nortel and Rolls Royce, both with similar job descriptions and compensation packages, but I decided it was time to take care of my own career plan and not let someone else decide whether I had a job and what I was doing next. Besides, with an MBA and lots of experience, I was ready to prove that I was at least as good a manager and businessman as the people I had been working for. So I went back to consulting on my own and started to explore opportunities to start in business for myself.

That’s when I met the owners of TTX who were looking for a distributor of their computer peripheral products in Eastern Canada. That appealed to me because it matched my interests in technology and I had good credentials in managing the distribution side of a business. So I quit consulting, put in some cash and agreed to start with no salary as we opened a joint venture in Montreal. It was a great experience from the first day.

It was only much later that I recognized the two important checklists to go through before you launch your business.

First,  my short list of the Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur

  • Energetic, competitive, independent, confident, persistent, action-oriented, decisive.
  • Passionate, persuasive communicator.

If you don’t have them all, then you better include a partner in your plans.

Don’t quit your day job yet

And before you leap into the unknowns of entrepreneurship, you need to go through another checklist, starting with your Basic Defensive Interval. (Simply: How long can you last without income?)

The “Before you Launch” Checklist

  • Skills, knowledge, experience, and contacts relevant to your business plan.
  • Expectations and preferences for the entrepreneurial lifestyle – work routine and environment, prestige and compensation, work/life balance.
  • Personal strengths and weaknesses that will help, not hurt, the business.
  • A healthy foundation – family, physical and financial. Solid not shaky.
  • Strategic resources in place – partners, suppliers, facilities, key customers and employees.
  • Financing for start-up – including your Basic Defensive Interval and the first few months of negative cash flow.

If you can’t put a checkmark with confidence in every box, then you better try harder – recognize the deficiencies and fill in the gaps. Maybe you require more time to develop your skills and get more relevant experience or to beef up your foundation and strategic resources before launching.

 Look before you leap

(An extract from “Don’t Do it the Hard Way” by your Uncle Ralph.)

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