Asking this question may sound a bit condescending; I don’t mean it to be. But it’s a really important question to ask, if only of yourself. Too many books, websites, infomercials, and magazines focus on the glory of owning a business without first delving into the most important question: “Is it right for you?”
An entrepreneur can go from dominating a space to being irrelevant overnight. Powers out of your control (can anyone say "2008 financial crisis"?) can pummel your business, lead to heartbreaking layoffs, and bring into question your entire belief structure. The uninitiated might not even be able to fathom the long-term and profound consequences of bad business partners or strategic alliances. And no matter how good things are, sometimes it's just a lonely journey after you work an 80-hour week and retire to the captain’s quarters.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Otherwise, we wouldn’t do it. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a client take your product or use your service and love it, stand by it, adore it, and brag about it. Or when you realize that a decade or more has gone by and people you hired back in the day are now your trusted confidants, allies, and managers, ready to bleed for their team. And sometimes, just sometimes, you’ll turn a profit, go on vacation, tune out the world, and revel in the fact that your toes are in the sand, your face is in the sun, and you're sipping that margarita because of the risk you took years ago.
I personally don’t think entrepreneurialism is right for everyone. Nor do I think every business is right for every entrepreneur. Most people I know and love are not entrepreneurs, and I know great entrepreneurs that have failed because they dove headlong into the wrong business. Entrepreneurism is a discovery of self and a thirst for adventure in a field that impassions you.
So, I’ve worked up this list of questions to ask yourself if you are on the fence.
Congratulations: If you answered #4, you have the risk tolerance of an entrepreneur. Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs don’t throw caution to the wind unless they are prepared, and even then, they only take on risk when there is a potential for upside.
Congratulations: If you answered #3, you understand that money is just another thing in your bucket. Money should always be used to support your stakeholders (clients, employees, shareholders, and community). Too greedy, you run the risk of not reinvesting in your company. Too frugal, you don’t use money to innovate, excite, reward, and grow. Too much of a spender, you don’t leave enough cash in the bank to survive crummy seasons and economic downturns.
Congratulations: If you answered #4, you’ll make a great entrepreneur. At the core of every entrepreneur is a people person. You can’t design a product or give great service without first being empathetic. This requires that you understand others and truly want to make their day better.
It’s no surprise that #3 is the best answer. A solid business plan is the foundation document of your company, making it an invaluable long-term asset. Whether you develop your business plan yourself or hire Masterplans, the Business Planning Experts, it is essential to invest time and resources in this document and continue to revisit it on a regular basis. (Or you can always become a nasty statistic.)
If you answered all these questions right, are you an entrepreneur? My answer would be no. Entrepreneurship is a lifelong endeavor. It’s maintaining a childlike curiosity about people and the things we need and use in our everyday lives. It’s marrying that childlike curiosity with a warrior’s spirit. Never retreat, never surrender. And it helps if you can remain empathetic to the needs of your clients, employees, and community.
Brent Butler is Masterplans' CEO. Connect with him on LinkedIn.