So you want to become an entrepreneur? Have you asked yourself the important questions that come along with making this decision?
Becoming an entrepreneur has become common among today’s millennials. At least once or twice a day you hear the word ‘entrepreneur’ casually thrown around. Before I explain to you why your decision to become an entrepreneur could be the wrong decision, let me share my story of why I chose this path.
I am almost 36 years of age and have been working professionally since the age of 13. Between living in New York City, Upstate New York (New Paltz and Syracuse), Maryland, Atlanta and now Ghana, I have held approximately 20 positions working as a cashier at Dunkin Donuts, serving sandwiches at Blimpies, annoying customers on the phone as a telemarketer, a rejected door to door saleswoman, a used and abused admin at the local Chiropractor’s office, a youth counselor at the Boys and Girls Club (this one I loved), and witnessing the birth of several children as a high school intern at the labor and delivery department. Let me not leave out the data entry and customer service roles for temp agencies and administrative roles during my uni days of work study.
Name it. I have pretty much done it.
Before settling into Human Resources for almost eight years, the longest I held a job was no more than six months. Clearly, I had a low attention span and got bored pretty quickly. But that will be a ridiculous reason to venture into entrepreneurship.
During my time working in HR, I was able to develop and acquire relevant skills. I learned to strategize, communicate effectively, multitask and negotiate. I also learned the importance of teamwork, people skills, management, and leadership, to name a few. A year before parting ways with the organization, I was promoted from assistant to the director. Around that time, I realized that perhaps I would not have the opportunity to use those skills acquired effectively to do exactly what was required of an HR professional and would have to report to someone who had no interest in doing what was right for the entire staff of the company. Working in corporate America taught me a lot of valuable lessons. The most valuable being the inability to flourish and make impact the way I saw fit. And yet, I remain grateful for all the real life experiences gained and the network I have been able to create.
Basically, I used the earlier part of my career to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. I was also able to figure out my passion. Turns out I have two. The day I said goodbye to corporate America, I knew I had reached the end of an era. It was time to do something meaningful with my life. That day, I went home and drafted my business plan. For over two years, I had been contemplating starting a business and the time had come.
Today’s millennials need to know that there is nothing wrong with working for someone, earning an honest living, establishing a career and helping build a business that has a mission and a purpose. The most important thing is to know the company’s culture, as well as its mission, and making sure it aligns with your own. There is plenty that can be learned and accomplished working with a respective organization. Great perks come with being the head of a company or being a valued staff at the lower level. The truth of the matter is, we all cannot be entrepreneurs and we all should not aspire to be entrepreneurs regardless of what ‘inspirational quote’ you came across this morning.
‘If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.’
I am not certain how Tony Gaskins came up with the above quote but in my opinion, it can be deceptive. So should you give up your 9-5 to start your own business after reading this? Surely, someone has.
Before you delve into entrepreneurship, ask yourself these very important questions:
- Why do I want to become an entrepreneur? If your reason is that the word sounds cool, then you are in it for the wrong reason. You should not make a decision to become an entrepreneur because of the ‘glitz and glamour’. You definitely need to rethink your decision.
- What real life experiences have I faced that will make me a good leader? Entrepreneurs are leaders or should aspire to be leaders. As a leader, every decision you make is influenced by some realistic and practical experiences, which have taught you a lesson or two.
- What problem have I identified and what solutions can I create to solve the problem? Entrepreneurs are problem solvers. They do not just start businesses and initiatives for the sake of doing so, they have an objective to solve a particular problem and as such, create solutions.
- What is my plan or method to reach this goal and fulfil the mission? Surely, you have heard the term ‘business plan’. Do you have one and if so, are you constantly tweaking it? Entrepreneurs should not ‘wing it’ as they go. In order to reach your desired goal, you have to devise a strategic plan that is sure to get you to the finish line. Entrepreneurs are also implementers and they make sure the plan is put into action.
- Who is going to help me get started? We all need someone in our corner, whether a mentor, role model, staff, co-founder or investor. We cannot do it alone so this question is very important.
- What capital do I plan to use to get started? The good thing about working for someone else goes beyond just the soft skills and hard skills. You also get the chance to build a financial portfolio and plan for your future. You will need a little cushioning if you plan to become an entrepreneur. Consider registration fees and other initial expenses.
Entrepreneurship is a long journey that I am not sure ends. On the journey you have to have tough skin, you have to be bold, fearless, free of doubt, and you also have to do things that you probably do not want to do. Make decisions you may not want to make. While on the road you will find yourself lonely at times, sad, confused, misunderstood and wanting to give up but you must know that no one will believe in your dream as much as you believe in it and therefore it is important to keep going and never give up if you believe in your heart this road was paved for you.
Article by Rita Kusi, CEO of KUSI Consulting