A note from our Executive Director, Ben MacMinn.
“Entrepreneurs get to be their own boss; nobody tells them what to do. They make thousands of dollars a day, go on vacations whenever they want; probably living in some beachfront condo on a private island.” We’ve all heard it, right?
But let’s be real, this doesn’t happen. Owning a business is challenging. It’s hard work. It’s giving up your freedom now for the hope of having more freedom later. It’s failing thousands of times so that you can succeed once. It’s adapting to every curveball life can throw at you. Solving problems that you never realized were problems in the first place. It’s skipping meals, skipping sleep, missing out on time with your family and friends, living outside of your comfort zone, realizing that you may not make a dime of profit for three years or longer. It’s working 80 hours a week to achieve your own goals, so you don’t have to spend 40 hours a week working on other people’s dreams.
But here’s the good news… After working with hundreds of individuals in the Greater Columbus, Georgia area, StartUP Columbus has identified four common obstacles and solutions to alleviate some of those pain points.
Creating a Business Plan
People tell me of their fear of writing business plans all the time. Whether it is because they can’t see themselves writing 50 pages of information or don’t understand what an Executive Summary is, there are many good reasons as to why people won’t create a business plan. But, since we could argue this is one of the MOST important parts of starting your business, we want to eliminate any misconceptions you may have:
- Not all business plans are long; they can range from one page to hundreds of pages, but the average is closer to six pages.
- You are not bound to one layout; if you want to say “advantage” instead of “unique value proposition,” you can!
- Business plans are not simply for financing; they are for you to tell the story of your business, from the big picture items to the small details.
- You do not have to do this alone–there are several resources in our region that can support you and help you start your business plan.
Another common obstacle we’ve noted is a mindset that some have about raising capital–thinking their startup is going to get an equity investment to fund their business. We see the Shark Tank and Elevator Pitch reality television shows all the time where all an entrepreneur has to do is have a good idea for somebody to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into a startup. What people don’t see is the thousands of hours of hard work, continued planning, and financial planning that it takes to even reach that part of the process. More common forms of financing that startups should focus on are their own funds (or bootstrapping), business loans & lines of credit, non-bank loans, crowdfunding, or even contributions from family & friends. No matter how you earn your capital, nothing can replace the importance of financial planning.
Pivoting is another term used for adaptability. As a new entrepreneur, you are going to be forced to make hundreds of decisions daily, from big, visionary decisions to small, detailed ones. It is highly unlikely that each of these hundreds of decisions is going to be the right decision. The successful starters are the ones that are able to acknowledge the wrong choice, rethink their process, and pivot their idea to something new. While the founder of a startup is the visionary, it is the customer that is going to tell you exactly what you need to do to be successful.
Leaving your Career
Leaving your current job is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. Whether it is because of decades of experience in your job or the “golden handcuffs,” leaving a risk-free career for an unknown future is tough. During your startup years, you will likely work nights and weekends to get your new business going, but if you are truly going to commit to your startup and grow it to success, it is unlikely that you can manage another career in tandem. While there is no “one rule” on when you should take the leap and leave your job, you should always think through it logically, ignore your gut reactions, and surround yourself with people to help you make that decision.
As a new entrepreneur, if you can work through these major obstacles, you will be well on your way to success. These will not be the only obstacles you will face; as you go into business for yourself, you will learn what it truly means to be a problem solver. But even though you are in business for yourself, you do not have to be in business by yourself. StartUP Columbus is here as a resource for you. We want to help you achieve your goals and your dreams. We look forward to partnering with you as you START.
Head over to our CO.STARTERS page to learn more about our CO.STARTERS Program. CO.STARTERS is a nine-week, cohort-based program that equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn ideas into action and turn a passion into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. If you think this program is the right fit for you, apply NOW!