Stephanie Schwartz is the founder and CEO of Little Bean Group, a fundraising consultancy based in Washington, DC. www.littlebeangroup.com
There is no shortage of things to know before starting your own business. What is your business plan? How will you market your company? What sets your company apart from others?
These are big and important questions. But before you can focus on these outside questions, there are four personal things you should know about tackling it yourself. And here’s a secret: you already know them on some level. They include your finances, your risk tolerance, your schedule, and your professional and workplace needs.
If you’re leaving a full-time job to start a business, ask yourself how that move will affect your finances. Can you manage if your income falls first? What other capital do you need to make your business successful? Do you have it available? If not, how could you access it?
Before starting my business, I sat down with my family to plan different scenarios and set aside money that I could use for business investment and marketing. By taking that time and having open conversations, I was able to allay my concerns. Ultimately, planning your finances ahead of time can help relieve stress over time, especially if things don’t go as planned at first (and realistically they might not).
Your tolerance for risk
In addition to planning your finances, you need to think about your tolerance for risk. How comfortable do you feel if your company is not making a profit for six months or a year? When I launched my business, it took me five months of active networking and pitching before I had a paying customer. That time was unbearable. How will you feel if you miss your sales goals? How do you deal with the disappointment that you might not get the kind of work you thought you would?
Starting a business is inherently a risky endeavor; think about how much risk you can tolerate and then adjust your approach to your comfort level. You may feel more comfortable with a slow rollout or soft launch, rather than diving headfirst into it.
Think of the flow of the day. When are you most alert and creative? When do you feel tired? Consider planning your day around your peak times. I am the sharpest in the morning. I like to work an hour at 6 a.m. if I can. I try to schedule most phone calls and meetings for the afternoon. This strategy frees me up in the afternoon for more mundane tasks that require less focus. If you’re a night owl, you may want to schedule customer calls and meetings in the afternoon so that you have more time to start the workday calmly. One benefit of having a business can be that you have more control over your schedule. Use that to your advantage to do your very best work.
Your professional and workplace needs
When I launched my business, I didn’t think much about how my day job would differ from my office days. I thrived on the social aspects of the job and loved the camaraderie of my colleagues. On the first day of running my business, I was sitting at my desk in my home office and feeling lonely. I hadn’t imagined what working from home, alone, would feel like.
Before starting a business, ask yourself what kind of environment and support you need to feel safe and comfortable. Then make decisions that support those needs. That could include working from a co-working space, joining professional organizations where you can meet other business owners, planning a walk every day for lunch, or setting up weekly networking calls to stay connected. Consider planning your day around your peak times.
There is so much focus on the external aspects of running a business: reporting, marketing, customers, products and services. But before you turn your attention outward, focus on the four things you need to know about yourself. Taking the time to think, plan, and discuss these factors will set you up for future success.