I just finished the last of my Thanksgiving leftovers and am knee-deep in managing my children’s gift expectations. But I’m also juggling calls from several acquaintances asking, “How can I …”? Insert “start transitioning out of my role into something else” or “start my own business.”
In short, as people often do during the holidays, they reflect on their lives and start teeing up resolutions for the new year.
Many operate under the misconception that being an entrepreneur is a cakewalk, that they can consult and bill $400 an hour due to their pedigree and/or experience. They think clients will rain from the sky and they will nimbly execute on the deliverables, administer the business and finances, while easily keeping home and work in balance.
You guys know that I struggle with filtering my opinions, so I actually laugh out loud. At them. Really hard. And for a long time. And then I share some basics steps to supplement the research they should be doing.
First, reflect on what they want to be when they grow up. What are their passions? What makes them jump out of bed? This will help identify their purpose, ensuring that genesis in the business translates into sustainability and avid engagement.
Alternately, to paraphrase Jimmy Rhee, secretary of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, identify some of the worlds’ biggest problems and go find a solution. That’s the business.
Actually, starting a business is simple. Start with the SBA.GOV website and follow the prompts, use the templates for Business Plans, Cashflow, etc. Leverage the multitude of free resources, such as the Small Business Development Resource Centers, SCORE and training sessions/workshops offered by community and professional organizations like the Chambers of Commerce.
But you need to be prudent and fiscally responsible. Engage an attorney to establish your LLC or S-Corp (or whatever structure provides the greatest benefits and protection), and purchase sufficient insurance to protect your assets (bankruptcy is not a good fit for the brokerage account).
Ideally, the business should begin as a pilot, whether service-based or product-based (think prototypes and pre-orders). I highly recommend that you retain your current employment while exploring entrepreneurship. Please behave accordingly and don’t burn down any bridges if possible. Many an entrepreneur started with their former employer becoming their first client.
Depending on the objectives and purpose of the entrepreneur, there are additional options, such as incubators and fellowships to explore their concepts. For instance, check out Maryland Business Innovation Association (MBIA), which list many options including The Foundery, Technical Innovation Center @ Hagerstown Community College and the Towson University Incubator, to name a few. Also, our friends at Shift have the Venture Conscious Venture Lab to support socially conscious entrepreneurs through an extensive program.
For those focused on social justice, consider the 18-month Open Society Community Fellowship program, where a concept that will improve our community (think about solving problems like food desserts, recidivism, low literacy, race relations, etc.) can be fueled, structured and piloted for sustainability and scalability.
Delivering the goods
But starting the business is just ONE step. One must market and execute on the deliverables. Marketing includes promoting the competitive advantage one may have. A good example is one we are pleased to showcase — being the only certified Hispanic- and woman-owned translation firm in the city. Certifications are a unique advantage to consider, whether public (SBA 8A, MDOT MBE/WBE, Locally-Owned, Small-Business Reserve, Veteran-Owned, etc.) or private (WBNC or Minority Supplier Diversity Council certifications).
The most critical tip to share around certifications is the need to actively pursue and respond to contracts and RFPs after acquiring said certifications. Procurement officers typically do not just knock on one’s door offering sole-source contracts!
If you lack discipline and drive, you probably should not pursue entrepreneurship, unless you can hire the staff needed to execute on the deliverables of the business.
Honestly, with the unemployment rate as low as 3.5%, there are many incredible career opportunities available allowing for a smoother transition than just jumping into the entrepreneurial abyss. Mind you, I love it, wouldn’t trade it, but it is not an easy road, and it is certainly not for everyone.
So, keep eating and shopping, enjoy the holidays with friends and family and consider, thoughtfully and intentionally, what the new year can hold for you. There’s always a new Peloton or the gym membership that can change your world.
¡Amigos, les deseo muchas bendiciones y prosperidad! Friends may your holidays be filled with much prosperity and blessings!
Veronica Cool is founder of Cool & Associates LLC, a business management firm specializing in financial wellness and diverse segment marketing. Her column appears each month in The Daily Record and online. Contact her at Veronica@CoolAssociatesLLC.com. Follow her on Twitter at @verocool.