No amount of education or work experience can fully prepare you for the demands of running your own small business — but that doesn’t mean you’re not ready to start one.
Much like starting a family, founding a company is a choice that requires careful consideration. Even after you’ve crunched the numbers, calculated the opportunity cost and pored over detailed pros-and-cons lists, how do you know if you’re actually ready?
Starting a Business: How to Know If You’re Ready
First things first: You’ll need a good idea, says Corey Brundage, a Los Angeles-based small business owner and founder of HONK, a roadside assistance app. Brundage found inspiration for his company in 2013, when his fiancé’s car broke down on the side of the road.
“We didn’t have any roadside assistance,” Brundage explains. “I just kept thinking, ‘How I can press a button and get [an Uber] in two minutes, but when I’m stranded on the side of the road, there’s no button for that?’”
Founded a year later, HONK offers 24-7 roadside assistance, available nationwide from a mobile phone or tablet. Unlike traditional roadside services like AAA, HONK doesn’t charge membership fees — instead, users pay for the specific services they require.
Brundage had more than just an idea, however — he also had experience working in tech, which would prove useful as he began putting his company together.
“My background was initially focused on engineering and software development,” he says. “I moved into product management, and ultimately more into digital marketing. So I had a unique blend of skills that enabled me to conceive something, build it and actually market it, which got me started much more quickly.”
Inspiration and experience are just the tip of the iceberg, however. Here are a couple more signs you might be in a good position to start your small business.
Starting Up: A Checklist for Potential Business Owners
1. You Have a Market
You’re not going to get far at all without a solid customer base. It’s time to start putting your great idea to the test: Sit down and figure out who your customers are and where they live. If you have a good sense of this, you can start testing the waters; approach potential customers to see if they’re interested, create a beta version of your website, find a mentor in your field and start gathering feedback from your peers.
2. You’re Not Afraid of Hard Work or Learning on the Job
The perks of running your own business are obvious: Among them, you will get to be your own boss and set your own hours. Still, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. There will be no shortage of hats you’ll have to wear when starting out: receptionist, sales associate, bookkeeper, IT manager — the list goes on. Make sure you’re willing to put in the energy to learn new skills, step outside of your comfort zone and expend a fair amount of elbow grease.
3. You’re Confident Enough to Make Mistakes
Part of being a small business owner is being able to reconcile yourself with the fact that you might fail. That doesn’t mean you should be scared to make mistakes — in fact, Brundage says, small business owners need to put everything on the line and learn from speed bumps along the way.
“You just have to stand on the edge of that cliff and let yourself fall forward,” he says. “You have to have a lot of confidence and just believe that you’re going to make that happen … If you can get yourself into that position, your odds of actually getting where you need to be increase dramatically.”