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Traits Do I Need Before Starting a Business?

Q. I'm thinking about starting a new business and becoming an entrepreneur. What are the most important things about which I should be concerned?

A. A few months ago, we wrote a column where we outlined the three most important personal attributes of an entrepreneur. They are: (1) Adaptability -- the ability to change direction as the world around you changes, (2) Persistence -- the willingness, ability and financial wherewithal to carry on through difficult times, and (3) Work Ethic -- the propensity for hard, hard work. We stick by these. You’ll need all three personal attributes. However, you’ll also need to deal with three very practical issues.

  1. Possess the requisite skills to do the primary work of the business (or if you possess only some of the required skills, you can partner with someone who has a complementary skill set). It may sound like remedial counsel to say that before starting a business, the owner should ensure that he or she could do the primary work of the business. Yet we know many people who have charged headlong into an entrepreneurial venture without having thought this issue through clearly. One most often overlooked and necessary skills, is the ability to sell. For most startups to survive, the owner will have to sell. It is unusual for a startup business to succeed if the owner(s) lacks the ability to do the primary work of the business.

  2. Have a plan for performing the ancillary functions. If you love baking cakes, don’t open a bakery. Get a job as a baker. If you are going to start a company, you had better want to run a business. That means you’ll have more to do than just the primary work of the enterprise. If you are running a bakery, you’ll do a lot more than just bake. You’ll have to wait on customers, order supplies, set up a bookkeeping system and administer it. You will perform administrative functions such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll. You’ll probably need some sort of IT infrastructure and the list goes on. These functions are ancillary to the core business. However, they are not unimportant -- quite the opposite. Getting these ancillary functions right is critical to the survival of the business. Yes, some of the ancillary functions can be outsourced, but you’ll need a plan to do each of them.

  3. Realize that growth means you will have to let go. Perhaps you are contemplating going into business because you are passionate about doing the primary work of the business. Good! You’ll need that passion. But remember, if your business is successful, it will grow. The time will come when you’ll face a choice. You’ll have to delegate doing the primary work of the business to others, stop growing or hire someone to run the company while you continue doing the primary work of the business. Before you launch your new venture, know which path you’ll take. Be prepared to deal with success.

Starting a new business is an exciting journey. But, as with any journey prior planning can help you avoid disaster. Make sure you have thought through the three critical issues above

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