I’ve met some recent college graduates lately who, instead of looking for a job, want to make their own job and start their own business, despite having any solid business experience. Far be it from me to damper youthful entrepreneurial enthusiasm, but I say –
Get a job.
(I don’t think I have ever written that sentence before.)
No, I am not suggesting that you get a traditional, post-college, I-need-to-pay-off-the-loans job that you hate, but rather, a job in the industry in which you want to start the business. There is simply so much to know when you start a business that you are really putting yourself at a disadvantage if you have no experience.
Let’s say that you wanted to start a restaurant and have a big idea for a place that is new and fresh and exciting. Awesome, way to go. Theoretically, yes, you could start it having never worked in a restaurant before, but don’t you see how having some real-world experience would be almost critical to the success of your venture? If you have never flipped burgers or handled an angry patron, you really have no business opening a restaurant. How do you even know if you would like it?
Theory is great, but real life practice is better. So yes, get a job.
While the idealistic pull of starting your own business is undeniable, there are unexpected issues of which you need to be aware, and being able to anticipate them somewhat can best come from working in the industry.
Here are my top three:
1. It will take longer and cost more than you anticipate: My wife and I are starting a new landscaping project in our yard. Here’s what I know: It will cost more and take longer than we think.
That is just a fact of life, and business.
Launching a new business is usually not an inexpensive proposition. It is a big project with lots of moving parts – writing a business plan, getting funding, making it legal, and so on – and these things just take time. They also cost money. Mistakes will be made and you can only hope that the ones you make are not cripplingly expensive or time-consuming.
And to belabor the point, one way to better anticipate such issues is to have worked in the sort of business that you want to start. I say one year at least.
2. You will work your tail off: Sure, pundits like me love to tell people how much work is required when they launch their own business and we do so for one reason: It is true. With no regular paycheck coming in and bills to pay, the pressure is on when you start a business. That means you will be far more willing to put in the extra hours than you were when you were working for someone else.
You will be tired, but as they say, good tired.
3. You will need to be a sponge: I am sure that there are plenty of things that you know well that you can bring to your entrepreneurial party; skills and talents you have honed during your college career. That’s good, because you will need them.
But they won’t be enough, and not by a long shot.
To succeed in your new venture will mean that you will need to tap into that ability to learn that you honed in school. Furthermore, working in the type of business that you want to start will teach you what you need to learn. When you are an entrepreneur, you need to know about marketing, advertising, sales, management, social media, hiring and firing – and that is just for starters. You will need to become a business sponge.
I don’t mean to scare you off, indeed, I hope the opposite is true. It’s just that another trait of a good entrepreneur is that you have a vision, yes, but it is tempered by a good shot of realism, and that can best come from having some practical experience.
© 2017, The Strauss Group, Inc.