Stephanie Schwartz is the Founder & CEO of Little Bean Group, a fundraising consulting firm in Washington, DC. www.littlebeangroup.com
There is no shortage of things you need to know before starting your own business. What is your business plan? How will you market your business? What differentiates your business from others?
These are big and important questions. But before you can focus on these external questions, there are four personal things you need to know about striking out on your own. And here’s a secret: You already know them on some level. They include your finances, your tolerance for risk, your schedule and your professional and workplace needs.
If you are leaving full-time employment to start a business, ask yourself how that move will impact your finances. Will you be OK if your income decreases at first? What other capital might you need in order to make your business successful? Do you have it available? If not, how could you access it?
Before launching my business, I sat down with my family to plan out several scenarios and set aside funds that I could use for business investments and marketing. Taking that time and having open conversations helped to ease my concerns. Ultimately, planning out your finances ahead of time can help alleviate stress down the line—particularly if things don’t go as planned at first (and realistically they might not).
Your Tolerance For Risk
Along the lines of planning out your finances, you need to think about your tolerance for risk. How comfortable are you if your business doesn’t turn a profit for six months or a year? When I launched my business, it took me five months of active networking and pitching before I had a paying client. That time was excruciating. How will you feel if you miss your revenue goals? How will you manage the disappointment of perhaps not landing the type of work you thought you would?
Launching a business is inherently a risky endeavor; think about how much risk you can tolerate and then tailor your approach around your comfort level. Perhaps you will feel more comfortable with a slow rollout or a soft launch, rather than diving in headfirst.
Think about the flow of the day. When are you most alert and creative? When do you feel tired? Consider scheduling your day around your peak times. I am the sharpest in the morning. I love to get an hour of work in at 6 a.m. if I can. I try to schedule most calls and meetings before noon. This strategy frees me up in the afternoons for more mundane tasks that require less focus. If you’re a night owl, you may want to schedule client calls and meetings in the afternoons to allow yourself more time to ease into the workday. One benefit of owning a business can be more control over your schedule. Use that to your advantage in order to do your very best work.
Your Professional And Workplace Needs
When I launched my business, I didn’t give much thought to how my day-to-day on my own would differ from my office days. I thrived on the social aspects of work and loved the camaraderie of my colleagues. On the first day of running my business, I sat at my desk in my home office and felt lonely. I hadn’t thought about how working from home, alone, would feel.
Before you launch a business, ask yourself what kind of environment and support you need to feel secure and comfortable. Then, make decisions that support those needs. That could include working from a co-working space, engaging in professional organizations where you can meet other business owners, calendaring a walk each day during lunch or setting up weekly networking calls in order to stay connected. Consider scheduling your day around your peak times.
There is so much focus on the external aspects of running a business: the messaging, marketing, customers, products and services. But before you turn your attention outward, focus on the four things you need to know about yourself. Taking the time to think, plan and discuss these factors will set you up for future success.