When most people leave jobs, either voluntarily or not, one question can be: Do I stay in the business I am in now, or do I try something new like striking out on my own? So what does it take, and is the solo professional life for you?

“From an Ocean Liner to a Dinghy of Your Own Making”

This is how a lot of people starting their own businesses describe leaving the relative solidity of an organizational assignment. Striking out on your own is heady stuff as you realize that your time is your own. It’s a stage when you can do things your own way, without having to ask anyone for permission, except a spouse or partner. It also takes considerable savvy about a market niche that is underserved, and it demands enough capital to tide you over and underwrite the business until your first big payday – often somewhere between a year and three years away. Most of all, it takes being willing to do everything, and I mean everything, yourself.

Several of my clients have made successful transitions into their own consulting businesses based on their public sector experience. Senior people from Homeland Security, The Army, and Health and Human Services have all opened their own shop when their assessments showed that they were tired of having a boss and working in a large organization. Along the way, they had to:

  • decide the exact nature of their product or service;
  • identify the size and type of likely competitors;
  • learn how to market themselves;
  • resolve the issue of whether to work alone or seek a partner, and
  • determine what business alliances could move the enterprise along faster.

Often these decisions are tentative and can lead to false starts and a tight learning curve.

Some Hard Learned Lessons From New Businesses

You need to decide whether you are absolutely committed to the product or service you plan on delivering. The grim facts are that 50 percent of new businesses fail in the first year, and 95 percent fail during the first five years. Why? Because of a lack of experience, insufficient capital, poor location, poor inventory management, unexpected growth, competition, and low sales.

Then you need to have a heart-to-heart with yourself about whether you are willing to spend most of the first three years focusing on your own business to the exclusion of a lot of wonderful parts of life, like friends and family. When you make this leap, expect to spend more hours working than you ever did working for someone else. Also, because you are responsible for everything, that means

  • developing what you are going to offer;
  • creating your brand;
  • choosing your online presence, and
  • figuring out how to market yourself and how to set up the business infrastructure like financial and information systems to support your growth.

Sources of Support for Starting Your Own Business

There are fortunately several sources of support.

  • The Small Business Administration
  • Online advice – Two sources of online help for entrepreneurs are websites like Entrepreneur and Startup Nation
  • Small business owners – local small business owners are a helpful source of information. Find their professional groups and make contact.
  • Consultants – There are many professional consultants to help, but they aren’t necessarily cheap.

If after your research and soul searching you are ready to go, then just do it. My own experience is that it is immensely satisfying and exciting. Good luck.

Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. His rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience in just two short days. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.