Should I quit my job to become an entrepreneur?
I can't tell you how many times I am asked this question. I hear it from young people (they often ask if they should quit college) and from others of all ages who either hate their jobs or simply want a change.
I spend a lot of time trying to determine their motivations. Some believe that it would be great to work with friends, to not have bosses or to not have a pre-defined schedule. Although these may be drivers to pursue your own thing, there is more to consider.
I have started a number of businesses and I must admit that it took a lot of work, sacrifice and planning. One of the greatest reasons entrepreneurs fail is that they don't have adequate capital to grow their business. So how do you plan to raise capital? Have you considered that it may not be profitable for two to five years? How will you and your family handle this?
I was also very careful not to burn my bridges with my former employer. In fact, I set the stage for my departure when I decided to leave my last employer. I found and trained my replacement. This was ideal because my former employer was actually my first client and I was able to get a number of other clients from this company.
Consider if you have the discipline to work without a larger infrastructure to support the venture. Often, people don't realize how hard it is to do everything themselves. How about those distractions? Will you keep your gym membership? Can you attend your children's events? Assuming you start working from home, what happens when the house phone rings or there is a knock on the door?
A major area that is often over looked is how your family -- your support group -- will deal with your new venture. It's critical that you are fully open about the risks so that you and those around you can make intelligent decisions.
Make sure that you develop a conservative business plan that includes a contingency plan. If possible, maybe consider a "side launcher" -- that is, starting the business while you are still employed. Finally, when you cut the umbilical cord to the corporate world, stay in touch with colleagues, former bosses and head hunters. You never know when you might need them.
Kathy McShane is managing director of Ladies Who Launch, Connecticut. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or ladieswholaunch.com.southwestct.