When I submitted my resignation letter after working at Microsoft for 11 years, all my colleagues and friends were so curious to know how I DID it. (I wasn’t yet a success at that time, but making that jump is the first step.) Many of them had been thinking of having their own business someday, but they didn’t know where to start, and more than anything else, how to work up the courage.
To be honest, starting up is the hardest part. But you can avoid so much pain and struggle if you do your homework and know what to do and what not to do. I spent more than a year crafting my business idea, doing research and learning from successful people. When I finished writing more than half of my first book, I decided to change my business plan completely. And it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made in my business… because I wasn’t totally sure how I was going to make money!
Whether you are ready to quit your job and jump into your venture or you are still at the planning stage, this list is going to help you prepare for the ride and will put you on the fast track to be a successful entrepreneur. Are you ready?
Do a lot of research – If you already have a business plan, find out if there is anyone who’s already doing the same thing. Even though there are some people who are already doing what you want to do, think about what you can do better than them. It can be a different market or different geographical location. Find out who is the most successful in your industry and learn from them. If your idea is something totally new, ask your family and friends if they would pay for your products or services. “That’s nice” is not good enough. It has to be something that people are willing to pay money for.
Make a clear cash flow plan – Never quit your job until you are clear about how you are going to make money! No matter how good your products or services are, customers won’t come and knock on your door if you don’t market them. What is your target income? How many customers do you have to sell in order to achieve it? What is your marketing plan? What is your offer? Why do people want to buy from you? Be very honest. If you can’t achieve your goal, don’t be afraid to change your plan. The biggest mistake many entrepreneurs make is they get so obsessed with their idea that they lose the grip on reality. The best thing is to get advice from somebody who is already successful in their business.
Cut down your living expenses – Many people say lack of money is one of the things holding them back from starting a business. If you are really serious about starting a business, you have to learn how to get out of your comfort zone. Leave a comfortable life and live on minimum expenses. Move to a smaller apartment, use public transport, cut down on visiting restaurants and bars, change your cable subscription to a basic plan, pack your lunch and stop your dance class temporarily. There are many ways to cut expenses and still have fun by being creative. Set your start-up capital aside – you have to prepare enough money to cover your living expenses for 6-12 months in case you don’t get income immediately. You don’t really need to have a lot of money to live. Choose to be uncomfortable now to live an extraordinary life in the long term instead of being a slave to your paycheck.
Invest in education – While cutting down your expenses, the only and the most important thing you should be investing is acquiring knowledge that is crucial for your business. I spent more than $40,000 learning from successful mentors around the world and the return from the investment was more than 10 times over just one year. There are so many people teaching how to be a millionaire although they are broke! Make sure you learn from successful people who walk the talk. Some programs and seminars offer installment plan, so stretch your payments out as much as you can.
Your Network is your Net worth – Show up at networking events and tell people about your business plan. You don’t need to worry that people may steal your idea. Just share your plan but not in much detail. You will be surprised to find out that many people will try to help you by referring potential clients and business partners, and recommending resources. You can even find joint ventures, partnership or affiliate idea that can immediately get you off the ground.
Surround yourself with people who support you – As many people you may find who try to help you, there are some people (even your close friends and family!) who envy your courage and will try to pull you down. They may be just worried about you and give words of caution out of love, but this doesn’t help you when you need a lot of encouragement. In fact, many people live their lives in fear instead of passion and achieving their dreams. Remember your income will be the average income of the 8 people you spend the most time with. Be careful who you listen to, and who you are surrounded with.
Learn as much as you can while you are on the job – Especially when you are starting up, you have to do almost everything yourself – from sales, marketing, accounting, operations to trouble shooting on your own. Learn how your company operates in different areas and make connections with people who can help you in future. Keeping some accounting documents, report format, business proposal and executive memos can be useful in your business. Having worked in one of the biggest IT companies, I picked up some knowledge to troubleshoot my computers and the latest technologies, and it became really useful for me.
Be prepared to be your best and worst boss – Once you step into your entrepreneurship, your mindset will completely change. If you are an employee, you could just complain about your job and boss, and expect someone is going to fix things. But if you become the boss, you are the one who is going to fix the problems. Being your own boss means that you have a lot of freedom, but you also need to have a lot of discipline, patience and perseverance. Are you ready for that?
Use Other People’s Time – During the beginning stage when cash flow is tight, many entrepreneurs think that hiring someone would be the last option they can think of, but it’s a critical mistake. If you are busy doing book keeping, entering new contacts to the database, building websites and doing all other administrative activities on your own, when are you going to talk to people about selling your products and services? As an entrepreneur, you should be spending 70% of your time for revenue generating activities – meaning marketing and selling! You can start off with having someone at part-time. And if you are paying $7/hour to your assistant, focus on making more than $7 using that time. If you never free up yourself for revenue generating activities, your business will never be successful.
Find out your big WHY – Being an entrepreneur is absolutely rewarding and fulfilling, but there are times when things get rough and everything seems to go against you. During that time, the only thing serving you to keep your faith is knowing your big WHY. Why do you do what you do? How does that make you feel? What is it that gets the fire burning inyour heart? All successful entrepreneurs do what they do, not only to make money and create wealth, but also to fulfill their dreams and life purposes. They choose to do what they do because they want to change the lives of people and make a difference in this world. That motivates and excites them, therefore they can keep moving forward even during the toughest times. Are you ready to begin your exciting journey?