Maybe you’ve dreamed of launching your own business for years, but couldn’t summon the nerve – or the capital – to pull it off.
Perhaps 2020 proved disastrous to your career aspirations when the company you worked for downsized or shut down altogether – and out the door you went.
Either way, 2021 could be the time to ask yourself this question: Are you ready to go from employee to entrepreneur?
It’s an easy question to ask, but a more difficult one to answer, says Adam Witty, himself a successful entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.
“Maybe for someone who lost their job this year, it’s an easier call because they aren’t giving up something to make the move,” says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).
“For them, this might be the perfect opportunity to finally give in to any entrepreneurial urges. But leaving full-time employment with its relative security, regular paycheck, predictable infrastructure and perks is a different matter and requires a certain kind of courage.”
After all, success is not guaranteed. About 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year, and half succumb by year five, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But for those considering taking the plunge, Witty has advice:
Look before you leap. Starting a business requires a certain amount of risk, but that doesn’t mean you should be foolhardy. “While I agree you have to commit to any endeavor for it to succeed, I’m also pragmatic enough to know that the risk must be balanced.” Witty says. “Have a comfortable safety-net before you jump. Chances are, debt will outweigh income at the beginning. So, for those currently employed, take advantage of the income from your full-time position before you cut ties.”
Consider doing what you already know. For many entrepreneurs, success can be attributed to the fact they started a business in a field they were familiar with because they worked in it or already had expertise in it. “They had seen their industry from the inside and acquired a keen understanding of both its potential and its constraints,” Witty says. “That’s not true for everyone, but in the cases where it is true it definitely can make for a more solid transition, and increase the likelihood of success.”
Be adaptable. Witty says one thing that separates successful businesses from ones that fail is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. “Being adaptable doesn’t mean just introducing a new product to your realm of offerings,” he says. “It requires constant attention to what’s going on in the world, analyzing your competitors, and most importantly, not getting too comfortable at the top of the pyramid. The business cycle is much like a StairMaster – once you get to the top, you have to keep climbing to stay up there.”
Ultimately, though, the only way to truly find out whether a person can succeed as an entrepreneur is to do it, no matter how unsettling that first step might be, Witty says.
“Making the shift from the steady life of a full-time employee to the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship takes smarts, guts and support,” he says. “But you’ll never know if it’s right unless you embrace the risk.”