April Fools Day 2001 was the date I officially opened my marketing agency, Clarity Quest. At the time I had no idea whether it was going to be a tremendous success or a fool’s errand. Although I come from a long line of blue-collar business entrepreneurs, I had no personal experience in running a business. I had been thinking of starting an agency for over five years, when I finally got the guts to call a lawyer, file the corporation paperwork and quit my job.
When I took the leap from employee to business owner 16 years ago, I was excited and anxious, but not scared. Here are a few recommendations that can help if you know you want to start a company, but are afraid to press the accelerator.
1. Imagine The Worst Scenario.
Write down your epic failure scenario and what you’ll do if it happens. For me, it was not getting enough work and blowing through my savings. I felt confident if this occurred, I could get a job back in tech marketing within three months without having to relocate. Looking at it this way minimized the risk factor and I was much more confident to start my venture.
2. Have A Nest Egg.
The first two years are the toughest for most new companies, primarily regarding cash flow fluctuations. While you are still employed, save enough to cover your mandatory expenses for two years and get credit cards while you still have a salary and an employment reference.
3. Evaluate Your Lifestyle.
When cash gets tight, living simply gives you freedom. You’re going to be working long hours so you don’t need a huge house to clean or a luxury car to drive. If you require a vehicle for your business, buy something reliable and expense it.
When I started the agency, my husband and I lived in a 980 sq. ft. apartment, shared a single used car, and took public transportation. We are not happier now in large house with luxury cars. We’re more comfortable, but not happier. As a hungry entrepreneur, you should be a little uncomfortable, as it will motivate you. I had a lot of incentive to grow the company and my salary when my office was a shared bedroom with my infant daughter!
4. Tell Everyone You Know.
Shout from the rooftops that you are going to start a company. Use every social media channel. The American culture loves entrepreneurs, and your friends, family, business groups and local chamber will want to see you succeed. Not only will this network grow your business, but also your supporters will bolster you when times are tough. I can’t count the number of people who have shored me up through tough times, brought me a deal at a critical juncture, or kept my agency as a vendor through the 2009 recession. Many of those people are fellow small to midmarket business owners. You are now part of an entrepreneurial tribe so lean on them!
5. Calling Your Own Shots is Worth Every Bead of Sweat.
With over 16 years under my belt as a business owner, I could never go back to working for someone. I make my own hours, haven’t missed one of my 7th-grade daughter’s school or sporting events, take time for exercise, and get to work on marketing a new product or service every day. My day is never boring, bureaucratic, or inconsequential. Every single thing I do matters, not only to me but my family, employees, clients and partners.
Starting a Business Involves Sacrifices…But You’ll Love What You Do
My family recently returned from a vacation overseas. On our last vacation night, my husband and daughter were mildly complaining about having to get back to work and school. I honestly said I was looking forward to getting back to work. After two weeks, I truly missed the action and was ready to get back to things. Starting your own business can give you this same sense of purpose and freedom. You just have to take the leap.
Chris has over 20 years of marketing, business development, and product management experience in Fortune 50 and startup firms. As the founder of Clarity Quest Marketing, she has grown revenues for healthcare, biotechnology and technology firms using innovative marketing strategies and tactics. She holds a MBA from Western International University and MS in Electrical Engineering from Villanova University.