Monday, August 15, 2011

Do You Have What It Takes To Be an Entrepreneur?

Laid off? Can't find employment? Have you always dreamed of the independence of having your own business? Do you feel that this is your chance to finally realize your dream? You are not alone. This past recession, like the one 15 years ago, has driven huge numbers of people to start their own enterprises. The Kaufman Institute says that in 2010 over 565,000 Americans a month began a business.

If you're thinking you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, you should take the time to read not only this blog, but also the lead article in the August 14, 2011 Sunday Styles section of the The New York Times: "Maybe It's Time For Plan C." The article illustrates how very hard the transition can be from a corporate office job to running everything yourself. In fact, starting a business ("Plan B") has become so hard for some people that they are moving to "Plan C" -- going back to work for someone else.

From 1994 to 1998, I worked as a mentor and teacher to people who wanted to start businesses. Out of hundreds of people my colleague and I counseled and taught, only a fraction decided to actually start a business. We found in many instances that the people we met with or taught were shocked to learn all that they had to do to have success as a business owner. The ex-bankers who were used to the support system of an office just couldn't get used to the idea that they would have absolutely no support and that they would have to invest some start-up capital before they could even earn a dime. Others were genuinely surprised at how really hard it was to get a loan from a bank or equity investments from professional investors.

The people who did start businesses, and the successful entrepreneurs I worked with as a consultant and business planner between 1999 and today were the ones willing to do as much as they could themselves. They used their personal savings, buyout bonuses, credit cards, home equity (when people had home equity), loans and investments from friends and family to get their seed capital. They did the homework of researching the need in the marketplace, finding the lowest cost space, best raw materials, best people to join their team, and the best outside resources to do the things they couldn't do themselves.

They made big picture, as well as detailed plans. They had the goal, the strategy and the tactics thought out. They had a business model that made sense. And they executed their plans. The smartest ones also had good lawyers to help them with the legal ins and outs.

They knew that starting and running a business is more than a full-time job. It truly is all consuming. So if you're thinking of starting a business -- or sticking with the one you have -- you have to ask yourself if you are willing to do what it takes to be successful. Do you believe enough in your goal and yourself?

If you do, then go for it! (But seek help when you need it. The help is out there from free sources and paid professionals.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Where Is the Right Kind of Stimulus?

Now what? We raised the debt ceiling, and S. & P. lowered our country's credit rating. Congress voted to cut spending, but our deficit will still keep growing. Where is the action that will really make a difference? Where is stimulus we can believe in?

If new business is the traditional the engine of growth for our nation, why aren't the government and our financial institutions freeing up the capital to fund start-ups? Experts are saying since few organizations are hiring, we'll have to invent our own jobs. That means more people will need to become entrepreneurs. But where will the money to hire yourself come from?

We got out of the recession of the early 1990s through the growth of new businesses and the invention of new technologies. But capital was freely available to fund all that growth. Why isn't it now? We need members of Congress to take action in this and other areas, if we are going to pull our nation out of this steadily deeper trench.

Yesterday, Thomas Friedman, writing in The New York Times Sunday Review ("Win Together or Lose Together" - August 7, 2011), said we need a smarter long-term fiscal plan. He said we need to invest in "the pillars of our growth, wtih special emphasis on infrastructure, research and incentives for risk-taking and start-ups." I couldn't agree more.

In fact, I found myself in agreement with his entire piece on dealing with our "Great Contraction". We need some real leadership to come forward and get us going on rebuilding, on genearting a "national renewal," as Friedman calls it. He says we need to treat our situation as the emergency it is, and get people behind the changes we need to make.

After reading Friedman's opinion piece, I really began to believe that we can have a balanced approach to cutting expenses, raising revenues and catalyzing growth through business formation. The big question is whether there is anybody out there who can take the helm and steer us in the right direction? Anyone?