This is a good question, but one that I can’t answer for you I’m afraid. There simply isn’t a one-size fits-all answer. Some people are incredibly risk averse and others are a magnet for adventure. But before you close this tab and move on with your life, there are pointers to consider which will help you decide it the time is right. I’ve outlined these below.
A brief interlude, if I may? Thanks. Popular media will tell you that entrepreneurs are born that way. That the personality type of a business owner is narrow and predictable. But there are many business owners’ tales who are not told. Of course, we’re well aware of the infamous and archetypal technology entrepreneurs who haunt us each time our phones display shameful screentime stats. But the reality is that business owners come in many forms and choose the path for different reasons.
There are those who are logical and appreciate that long-term financial gain can be generated through business ownership. They may choose a steady and consulting-lead business model that can benefit from organic and consistent growth.
Then there are those who want to change the world. Those who have a burning idea that they need to realise. Inventors, technologists and idealists. Those who start businesses from necessity rather than
Crucially, if you feel you don’t belong in the Forbes lists of our time, don’t let that deter you from starting a business. In fact, when external validation is the catalyst, success is infrequently realised. Thanks for your patience during that interlude. Now let’s consider the factors that really matter for you.
1. Your gut instinct
Your gut instinct is the strongest determiner of any decision you take in life. It has an intuition that isn’t lodged in data and reasoning. It goes much deeper to the core of who you are and what you want to experience from life, without the internalised societal norms and learned fears. Have you ever ignored your gut feeling, and then regretted it? It’s pretty smart that gut.
Your gut can’t be silenced, even though your mind will try its very best to overpower it with logical thinking. Logical thinking, of course, has its place. It allows you to creatively problem solve whatever challenge is in front of you. When it comes to starting a business, your mind may focus on a lack of capital or savings. The reality is, money can be replenished but time cannot. Whilst money is an enabler for you to create and grow your business, you can figure this out. It is simply a case of creatively problem-solving to find the resources you need to do what needs to be done.
If you’re naturally risk-averse, don’t get too caught up in the logical arguments for and against starting a business. Your mind errs on the side of caution and is often victim to fear-based thoughts. Your mind will attempt to solve all the possibilities of what could go wrong before it will give you the green light. The reality is you will never know what problems and obstacles will come up. And they will always exist! You only ever need to solve the one problem in front of you first and the solution to the next one will become clear as you go on.
So rather, ensure you have a personal financial runway and a short-mid term plan. That will get you through the first few months, and the actions from there will become clear in time. Apart from that, take courage and listen to your gut. If you’re reading this, your gut is probably trying to tell you something (and it will haunt you)…
Now onto the practicalities.
2. Your personal financial situation
We all need a certain level of financial security in order to have shelter and safety, to eat and generally live a comfortable life. That figure will look different for everyone, depending on if you are responsible for children (and/or pets!), where you
You should understand your financial runway by considering the following:
- What savings you have (total)
- What you need to live on (monthly, including mortgage or rent)
- Any monthly income you have (full-time, part-time, passive)
deptpayments (monthly, not including mortgage)
Then the calculation should be:
It is very important that you keep your personal financial runway completely separate from your predicted business financials. This runway will tell you how many months you can commit to your business without the need for it to generate profit to pay you a salary and/or dividends.
What happens when the runway runs out? It’s worth having an idea in mind just to silence the fears that may otherwise keep you up at night. It’s enough to know “in six months when my runway runs out, I’ll get a part-time job/return to my former career”. Don’t get specific on the details, you don’t need to. Wait until it’s a reality before you solve the problem! If you have no plan B, plan A has to work –
When it comes to what you need to live on, the incredible reality is you can survive on much less than you think you can. I’m amazed at how little I’ve survived on in London when launching my businesses. But you will have to make sacrifices. Make food at home, walk everywhere. Use your local library instead of an expensive co-working space. Host dinner parties for friends instead of going out.
There is one thing not to scrimp on though, and that is budget to really take care of your mental wellbeing. Put some money aside for the things and experiences that will keep you mentally well. For me, this is access to a gym, regular yoga and some small amounts put aside for home improvements and trips. This will be different for you, but don’t omit this. Entrepreneurship tests the mental health of all of us. Be prepared to take good care of yourself.
Finally, remember that this is only temporary. You will appreciate the fruits of your business so much more in light of this short-term sacrifice. And if it was easy, everyone would do it.
3. Your business model and short-mid term plan
Your business model will determine the length of time it will take for your business to become profitable and what upfront investment (if any) you need.
Selling services (if you deliver the service yourself) can be extremely lucrative from the outset. Your overheads can be minimal and, as a result, the business can generate a decent profit overnight. Your time is essentially “free”. You may have to spend a little time branding and marketing yourself to secure your first few contracts but there is very little risk involved at the point of launch. Investment is minimal, perhaps small amounts on
If you plan to develop a product (physical or digital), you’ll likely need more upfront capital. This will be required to prototype and manufacture stock or to develop proprietary software. The decision you’ll need to make is are going to put your own savings into the business? Or are you going to seek alternative investment routes?
Of course, if you decide to put your own savings into the business that cash will not be available for the personal financial runway outlined in step 2. Earmark the total personal savings you’re prepared to invest. Investigate startup fundraising options and make a decision on which inital path you’ll take.
Finally, compare your personal financial runway with how long you estimate it will take for your business to pay you. This will highlight if there is a gap you need to fill. Don’t forget to consider tax and national insurance contributions, and if you’re starting a business with someone else, you need to consider their salary and dividend contributions too.
In my case, I set up a consulting company to “pay the bills” whilst I was developing my long-term business. This meant I could take on contract work and control my hours and income to fill any gaps in salary. Had I continued full-time in the management position I was previously in, I wouldn’t have had the flexibility and time to invest in my business.
4. Your skills and assets
This may sound obvious, but do you have the skills you need to create your business? How far can you go with the skills that you have? What are the skills or specialisms that are missing, is it feasible for you to learn these or will you need to hire or outsource?
If you are looking to start a brand consultancy business and you have a decade of experience in marketing and a large network, these skills and assets will be on your side from day one. This is a strong starting position.
On the other hand, if you have an idea for a groundbreaking SaaS business in an unfamiliar industry and you are limited technically yourself, you will need to bolster your skills and assets. Don’t be deterred, but do have a plan to build a team around you as quickly as possible, learn more technically advanced skills and grow your network (or bring in someone with a lot of connections).
Don’t be put off by any gaps in skills or assets, but instead see these as action points toward realising your goal. Stay focused and know what you’ve got to do. Keep moving forward and plug those gaps.
Again, you’ll surprise yourself at the tasks you can undertake and probably excel at. It’s amazing how quickly we can learn enough to get by when we need to! A day could see you submitting VAT returns, negotiating with suppliers, developing your website and preparing an investment pitch. Your skills will grow exponentially.
5. Your support network
Your support network is hugely important for you to ride out the highs and lows that entrepreneurship brings. Having people alongside you for the journey will help to ease the discomfort and keep you grounded.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who do I know that runs (or has run) their own successful business?
- Who do I know that is starting a business right now?
- Who do I know that is a leader in my industry?
- Do I have any mentors that can support me on this venture?
If your answers to any of the questions above are light, it’s worth looking for groups and communities that can help to bolster your network. Seek mentorship from people you admire and who have experience in your field or industry. They can help you to navigate your journey.
Join network groups that give you access to other entrepreneurs who you can relate to, collaborate with and share your experiences. You can keep up-to-date with our monthly Hugs & Wine meetups by joining our mailing list here or join our online community.
Your support network is crucial and will keep you sane during this unpredictable adventure!
So what are you waiting for? What is your gut saying? What’s the worst that can happen? Are you prepared to take the risk to experience what’s possible? It’s always worth contemplating the fact that we are on a floating planet in infinite space for a very short period of time. Listen to some Brian Cox – it puts those fears into sharp perspective.
Good luck (and don’t forget to enjoy the process!)
About the Author
Lara Sheldrake is an entrepreneur and founder at Found & Flourish. Lara writes and speaks on the topics of entrepreneurship, motherhood and social media for business. She also hosts the Bossing It podcast, aimed at empowering the next generation of female founders in the UK. Send Lara an email. You can also find her on Instagram @Lara_Sheldrake or Twitter @Lara_Sheldrake.
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