Leaping into the Void image

Leaping into the Void

Often I meet highly competent professionals who are between jobs and “in the perfect world” would start their own business as consultants, passing on their invaluable knowledge.

They tell me that they are clear that’s what they want to do but they are reluctant to fully commit as they are the main breadwinner, they have a big mortgage, or “want to see how it goes”.

Typically, they start off with best intentions, by taking on a part-time employed role and aim to develop their business in the remaining available space.

They are embarking upon, what I call, the “I can have it all strategy”.   Which, by the way, is doomed to failure.  

Why can’t you have it all?

The problem with this strategy lies in the psychology of the human state.  

When confronted with choice, we tend to err towards the easier option, accepting immediate certainty, reward and structure rather than the more nebulous promise of future wealth, autonomy and contentment.  Despite the surge of initial enthusiasm, characterised by copious research, the production of the most detailed business plans, and even full company formation, movement forward typically grinds to a halt at the point of prospecting for clients.

Then the inevitable happens.  A three day week becomes a full-time role and the dream of running their own business gets put on ice.

So why do you need to commit fully to starting a business?

There are a number of good reasons to commit fully to starting your business:

  • Time.  Starting a business is more than a 35 hour per week job.  You will not have the time to make it work if you have significant alternative commitments.  It’s also critical to be responsive when starting out – no good responding 7 hours later after that initial contact from a potential customer….
  • Energy.  By committing all to your new venture, your natural enthusiasm will be supercharged by the adrenaline surge that results.  You are also not being drained by the politics of work and the daily “grind”.
  • Making mistakes.  The best lessons will result from making mistakes – better to achieve them quickly rather than prolonging the experience.

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

  • Customer perception.  Customers are incredibly perceptive and will spot it if you are not fully committed.  Their word of mouth will be one of the biggest determinants of your future success.  Make sure they are positive through absolute commitment to them.
  • Investment.  The initial start-up phase demands commitment of time, energy and resources, including investment.  Money invested can be easily wasted if not accompanied by commensurate levels of graft.
  • Self image.   When you are networking, you will be perceived more credibly by potential partners, suppliers and customers if when they ask “what do you do?, you respond “I run my business”.  And guess what, the more you say it, the more you believe it.

So can you reduce the risk of start-up?

The good news is that you don’t need to run parallel lives to reduce your businesses’ risks. There are 6 simple actions you could do that will significantly enhance your chances of success:

  1.  Plan.  It’s not necessary to create a convoluted business plan but you should develop something like a lean canvas that will help you identify your critical path.
  2.  Manage the risks.  Anticipate what could go wrong and then make sure you have a plan to rectify the situation.
  3.  Invest wisely.  Most businesses start with an idea and a good laptop.  Take care before you start investing too freely on things you can do without until the business is more established.
  4.  Drive the inputs not the outputs.  Be clear on what you need to do and be rigorous.  Don’t end your day until you have done them.
  5.  Review regularly.  Consistently understand what progress you have made and where you need to finesse your approach in the next period.
  6.  Enjoy the fear.  Recognise that this new venture may be unchartered territory for you but it will be exciting and teach you more about yourself than any form of employment.

Chris Lorimer is a management consultant and coaches new business owners on how to be successful.