Last week's column on retirement brought in many letters with people writing to tell me that they were thinking of starting their own small business.
In 1987, I established my stress management and counselling consultancy — and for me it was the right decision. However, being one's own boss requires a specific mindset plus a commitment that is different from working for someone else within a corporate environment.
Before embarking on a self-employed career, you need to give consideration as to whether you are really suited to what will initially be a 24 hour job. A majority of people would rather work alongside others rather than being an entrepreneur, working all hours and having to make all the decisions. Going "solo" is not right for everyone and it is important that you find out at the early stage before you put time, effort and finance into your new career.
Well, if you look at entrepreneurs you will see that they share similar traits of character: persistence, dedication, commitment, tenacity, motivation, creativity, ambition and single mindedness. This list is not exhaustive and is not necessarily a template for entrepreneurship but you will need to possess some of these qualities.
Then you have to ascertain whether there is a sufficient demand for your product or service. Just because you have an idea for a business is not enough. You will need to do a feasibility study to see if the marketplace wants what you are offering. You may think that the world wants to buy "oranges" but if your research shows that what they actually want are "apples", then you will need to rethink your business strategy.
Once your research is complete, then you first need a Business Plan, before you are ready for the next stage which is to build your team around you. "No man is an island" and you probably need a peer group, and /or mentor to help you through this process. This could be a professional mentor, a friend, family member of colleague but either way, you will need to have someone around you to whom you will be accountable. This is very important as it is very easy to come off track and lose focus, so you will need someone who will ensure that you stay on target.
Writing a comprehensive business plan will highlight, both for yourself and your prospective funder/bank, whether your idea/project is viable. Therefore, no financial or other commitment should be entered into until such time as you have completed a comprehensive, written business plan that details every known aspect of your project which needs to include:
1. Experience/qualifications of yourself, managers and staff.
2. Proposed product or service.
3. The researched market and your marketing plan.
4. The proposed premises.
5. Funding requirements, including start-up and working capital.
6. Costs of research and development.
7. Costing of manufacture/production/
8. Research on your competitors
9. Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
10. Projected cashflow forecasts for 12 months and 3 years
When your plan has been completed and indicates a projected viability, then you can safely move forward with the initial steps of implementation into the business world.
A world that is full of opportunity, innovation and creativity. I am not saying that it is an easy option and some business propositions may not stand the test of time, and if it doesn't, then you need to acknowledge this and move on. But in those instances where it does work, you will find out that starting your own business can enrich your life and you will see that those long hours and late nights are not resented because you are working for yourself and not making profit for others.
The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who's Boss!' is available in all good bookshops.