Four Hurdles to Starting a Business

By Jim Stovall

When it comes to career, one of the greatest dreams of many people is to own their own business. This paints mental pictures of being the captain of one’s own ship and being in control of one’s destiny. Most all people who are considered a world class success in business own or at least run their own operation. For the right person, there is nothing better than owning your own business. For the wrong person, there is nothing worse than owning your own business. For the right people, starting or running a company becomes liberating, creatively stimulating, and energizing. For the wrong people, it becomes pressure-filled, confining, and paralyzing.

There are a number of hurdles that anyone should consider before starting or running their own business. These hurdles build upon one another. You don’t go to the second hurdle until you have successfully navigated the first one; and unless you get over all the hurdles, you should not even consider being in business for yourself. Once you’re over the last hurdle, it doesn’t mean you win the race, it means you qualify to enter the starting blocks to begin the competition of owning and running your own business.

Always remember, there is nothing wrong with not being a business owner, leader, or entrepreneur. There are scores of people who function valuably and professionally within someone else’s corporate structure. This does not make them bad people. On the contrary, it makes them very good people at fitting into a vibrant team.

The following hurdles should each be successfully cleared before you move on toward the possibility of even considering starting or running your own business.

Hurdle 1:  Honestly assess your temperament to determine whether or not you are suited to be an entrepreneur or a business owner. Are you a leader? Do you enjoy blazing your own trail, or would you prefer to follow someone else’s lead or a clearly delineated job description and career path? Ask friends, co-workers, and family members who will be honest with you to assess your temperament as well. Often, those around us see us more clearly than we can see our own strengths and weaknesses.

Hurdle 2:  Determine whether or not you have a unique talent, ability, or opportunity. You have heard it said that if you build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to your door. Obviously, it would be best to be the very first person to create a mousetrap. If not, you must determine if your mousetrap is really better and has either a cost or a quality competitive advantage compared to those that are currently on the market. You must also assess whether or not there are a sufficient number of mice--or in this case, potential customers--in your proposed marketplace. This area cannot be overestimated. Entrepreneurs fail every day because they are not honest with themselves. They feel they have a unique talent, product, or marketplace that no one else has.

Hurdle 3:  Do you have enough capital? Most entrepreneurs will tell you the term “enough” capital does not exist. There is more truth than one might imagine in that statement. When you are in business for yourself, everything takes longer, costs more, and is more difficult than you imagined. This is not negative thinking. It is the real life experience of most business owners. Too many “would be” entrepreneurs base all projections on the proverbial best case scenario. You would be much better off to base your projections on the worst case scenario and even cut it in half. If you can survive in that environment, you’ve got an excellent chance of making it. The only cardinal sin in business planning is to run out of money. Money buys you time, second chances, and many lessons. With money, you’re like a pilot flying 40,000 feet above the earth. Any problems can be dealt with at this altitude. You have a lot of time to make corrections, contingency plans, and pursue alternatives. Without enough capital, you are like that same pilot flying 100 feet above the ground. You can fly successfully if everything goes perfectly; but if there’s one mechanical error, fuel problem, or wind sheer, you are destined to crash and burn.

Hurdle 4:  Do you have a passion for your new business? This may be the most critical hurdle of all. It’s got to be more than a good idea or an attractive business. You’ve got to be willing to live, eat, and breathe your new venture because, in reality, you will probably be forced to. Becoming an entrepreneur means that you are willing to do things that most people are not willing to do. This is only possible when you have an unbelievable passion to pursue your dream of owning your own business.

If you have gotten over these four hurdles, you may be ready to approach the starting line. If you are, indeed, going to launch into your own business, above all remember the best advice I ever heard about being in business for myself:  Make sure you’re having fun. You got into this because you thought you would enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy being in business for yourself, you would be far better off having a job working for someone else.

On your mark. Get set. Go!

Read other articles and learn more about Jim Stovall.

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