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9 July, 2019 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career counseling, Career Management, Job Search
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The Romantic Lure, Pitfalls of Starting Your Own Business

Posted July 9th, 2019 | Author: John G. Self

As the healthcare industry continues to experience contraction, consolidation and right sizing, an increasing number of executives will be forced to confront these career options:  look for another job, start their own business as a consultant or invest in a franchise opportunity, leave the industry in pursuit of another career, or take early retirement.

For most, early retirement is simply not an option and changing careers can be as daunting as finding the same job in another city given today’s hyper-competitive job market.  That leaves the romantic idea of creating one’s own business.

I Took the Plunge In 1994

In 1994 I found myself out of a job in a medium sized city in East Texas.  Finding another healthcare job in that market was out of the question. I was in the process of building a new life and the thought of relocating was not appealing so I succumbed to the allure of running my own executive search firm.  There were a lot of good days and some very bad ones but 25 years later I am still in business.  I worked hard, I got lucky, and I refused to give up, all integral to avoiding failure. 

In recent days I have talked with several executives whose positions were eliminated following a merger or they were right sized out of the organization.  Most are in the position I found myself in in 1994, they need to work but are unable or unwilling to relocate. They asked me if I thought they should go into consulting by starting their own business.  They are attracted to the idea but they not sure they understand the risks or what it takes to succeed. 

As a career advisor I have found that asking questions is a far better way to help an executive grasp an understanding of the issues they will have to deal with to be successful.

10 Key Questions to Ask Before You Start

Here are 10 questions I routinely ask executives who are flirting with the idea: 

  1. Are you familiar with the odds of success and failure of starting a business?  Every year 627,000 new businesses are opened, according to the Small Business Administration and about 595,000 businesses close during the same period.  Thirty percent of new businesses close in the first two years, 55 percent fail in five years and 66 percent shut their doors in the first 10 years, the SBA reports.  Some of the businesses that did fail may have been a success if they had not panicked and thrown in the towel.
  2. Do you have the depth of knowledge, are you a subject matter expert? Do you possess the skills and reputation as a go-to resource to address the challenges a client might be facing?  This is critical.
  3. What is the anticipated demand for this expertise?  What does the competitive landscape look like?  For example, every business needs a strategic plan, but the playing field is loaded with consultants who offer strategic planning services.  This service has become a commodity where relationships and price determine who gets the work. Does your expertise allow you to specialize in business lines that have not been commoditized?
  4. What is your value proposition?  Why would anyone want to hire you, a boutique consultant?  What can you offer that one else can or will? 
  5. How well known are you – what is the reach of your brand?  If you do not have an established reputation you can still succeed but it will be a lot harder to break through.
  6. Do you have the brand management, strategic networking and digital marketing skills it will take to compete in the marketplace against hundreds of like competitors?  Unless you are well-funded, sending glitzy marketing brochures to targeted clients or making extensive sales calls is out of the question.  The more cost-effective approach is to use social media platforms like LinkedIn as a primary communications channel to share your value proposition content.  Making your own promotional content videos, hosting a podcast and blogging are some of the cost-effective tools at your disposal.  
  7. Are you prepared to spend the 40, 50 or 60 hours each week that it will take to land a sufficient amount of business?  Are you prepared to make the 40 or 50 telephone calls each week to people you do not know that it will take to develop actionable business intelligence that will lead to signing new business?
  8. Do you understand what the phrase eat what you kill means? This question is part of another financial question:  How do you feel about not having a paycheck every two weeks?   I have a friend who is financially well off.  He could go 10 years without working and not have to alter his lifestyle but the thought of not having a paycheck turns him inside out and keeps him from taking the plunge into business ownership.  How much financial stress can you manage?
  9. How much financial staying power do you have?  This is critical and it is an issue appropriately discussed with a spouse or partner.  As the financial pressure mounts, do you have a “time to bail amount,” an investment beyond which you are unwilling or unable to make. 
  10. Do you have the courage to stay the course? “Timing, perseverance and 10 years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success,” said Biz Stone, a Twitter founder.  This quote is loaded with truth.  Many business owners will say they survived when others failed because they kept going even others around them gave up. 

Owning and succeeding with your own business is a special kind of thrill.  It places you in a rare group of business owners. That said, starting your own business is an option but it is one that requires seriously planning, honesty regarding your strengths and weaknesses, the capital to grow the enterprise, the financial reserves to cover the lean times and the courage to stay the course.   

© 2019 John Gregory Self

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