You’ve decided that you want to be on your own as your career pivot.
Every year, a whole bunch of people like you strikes out on their own and form businesses, consultancies, and other revenue-generating efforts to realize their dreams of a successful pivot in the second act of life.
Also every year, a whole bunch of people fail in every one of those endeavors and wonder why it happened.
Let’s talk about that, and work out how you can avoid that fate.
Ideas need to be for the ‘real world.’
There are an awful lot (usually for a price) of books and articles and online pieces that all do their best to convince you that not only you but anyone, have within you such seeds of greatness and brilliance that becoming an entrepreneur is only a matter of following some sort of magic formula they can sell you. The stuff you’ll see is catchy, and sure does make it look easy as you begin to pursue your dream.
By all means, look at it, read it, and try to glean as much as you can from it – but remember one thing. Much of the advice that they give only works in an ideal world, where everybody does things in an ideal manner, including doing business and interacting with other people.
In other words, a place called Narnia. Real life does not happen there, and life (and business) is not wrapped up into a nice neat bow and delivered to your hands in the real world.
With that out of the way (by using a cold dose of reality), let’s begin asking some valid questions you need to answer to determine if entrepreneurship is right for you.
Are you really suited to be an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is hard.
Mentally, emotionally, and at times physically you are going to have to live and breathe every aspect of your enterprise because no one is going to do it for you. You are IT – and don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing jobs that you don’t think an entrepreneur should be doing, like sweeping floors and changing light bulbs and the thousands of other items of scut work that prior to your career pivot were always done for you by some other employee.
This is perhaps the hardest realization for anyone hoping to be an entrepreneur. They started out with a lofty ideal of how they would go in at 9 AM, work a full day, and be out by 5 PM to drive their Mercedes back to the mansion.
They should be congratulated on having such a rich fantasy life.
Let me say it one more time: being an entrepreneur is hard. Unless you are prepared to take on roles that you never thought you had to do, your effort is destined to fail before it even gets off the ground. Steel yourself to the fact that if you are to become an entrepreneur and start an enterprise you will be both boss and grunt, with possibly a great deal more grunt work than you have ever done before.
That’s life. Be prepared for it before you start your enterprise.
Planning will help you make it.
Planning? If you don’t know or are not really able to articulate an overall goal and then manage it by breaking it down into usable bits, there’s a better than even chance that your enterprise is not going to make it. Far too many people go through their business lives putting out one fire right after another and windmilling at their jobs due to poor or nonexistent planning. If they are doing that while working for someone else, why would it be any different when morphing into an entrepreneur?
Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s an old business maxim that has always been true, and an entrepreneur takes that and internalizes it immediately.
Think about it; every entrepreneur that you or I know has planned in such a way that they are always moving forward towards their overall goal – so if they encounter an obstacle, the plan always takes into account how to deal with it, usually through innovation, adaptation and eventually overcoming what was in the way.
All kinds of things are going to be getting in your way as you attempt to become an entrepreneur and realize your dream. Chief among these are going to be money, time, and gratification.
Money, time, and gratification are possible killers of your enterprise.
Let’s take those three one at a time, shall we?
Get used to the idea that there will never be enough. I’m not talking about money for your salary, instead, I’m talking about money to keep the business running on a day-to-day basis, particularly in the beginning.
Successful entrepreneurs are always aware that they need to keep raising money in some manner, shape or form in order to keep the enterprise going. Anyone who trusts that money is going to magically appear simply because their ideas are so great will find out quite differently, and very quickly.
Plan immediately how you will raise capital, and keep it coming – especially at the start and later, as you try to grow the enterprise.
We all have the same amount of time every day. The key to successful entrepreneurship? Knowing what to do with that time that maximizes the use of it in terms of building your enterprise.
The phrase “Spending your time” is very true when it comes to being an entrepreneur. Movers all know that their time, once spent, can never be retrieved. They use their time wisely and productively through planning for the day. I know of some that plan for every hour of the day. Unless you’re prepared to be an absolute fiend with your time and how you spend it, entrepreneurship may not be for you.
This relates to time above. Throughout our lives, it’s only natural to seek a certain amount of personal gratification – the many things that are fun, diverting, and pleasurable.
To quote Admiral Akbar from Star Wars: “It’s a trap!”
Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying that you shouldn’t plan out time for fun or something that’s pleasurable. What you need to do is schedule those things just as you would an appointment in business. Successful people do this all the time. You’ll find that if you don’t do this you’ll be like the little metal spheres in pinball machines – bouncing from bumper-to-bumper in no particular way, suddenly discovering that time has gotten away from you. The time you should have been using to get stuff done, instead of wool-gathering and doing something you like.
Which brings me to…
Schedule each day like the politicians do.
Have you ever wondered how politicians are able to recall the details of negotiations and meetings (and the results of same) days, weeks, months, even years after the fact? It’s because they keep schedules and journals to manage their time on a day-to-day basis, and as the day progresses they write down notes concerning everything that happened during that day’s business.
As an entrepreneur, you need to get into the same kind of habit, particularly if you are going to be involved in an enterprise where being able to document what happened in a face-to-face meeting could save your ass. Having that kind of detailed information available to you comes in very handy when other people you work with suddenly develop a faulty memory concerning things like details of terms they had agreed to, or even the amount of money owed. (If you are a politician, it helps when testifying before a Grand Jury – but I digress…)
Keep a journal. It will pay off dividends in the long run, and give you a great sense of accomplishment when you go back over the journals in the future and relive some of those moments.
What else? (..and why are you raining on my parade?)
Now, you can probably think of some other things that we haven’t discussed here, and that’s good – it shows that you’re thinking and considering what we brought up.
While it may seem that I’ve done everything in my power to throw roadblocks in the way of your pursuit of what should be the Next Big Thing, understand the only thing I’m wanting you to do is to rationally look at what you’re trying to accomplish, and what you need to do to accomplish it.
If you want to add to the discussion or the list of things that a potential entrepreneur needs to do – especially in the second act of their life – there’s a whole comments section open for you below.
Have at it!
This post was written by John Lewis. John was born in Europe and came by both wanderlust and curiosity from that beginning.He trained for a career in radio, TV, and print media before promptly giving all that up to spend 30 years in the jewelry industry. Once the lure of shiny things faded for him, he embarked on the Second Act in life as a Scuba Instructor, at one point with three separate International agencies. A stroke beached him in 2014, causing him to come full circle to his original training as a writer and video editor/ producer. He considers this his Third Act in Life.