The mistakes not to make when you make the break

Ball and chain

This article was first featured in the Women’s Network Australia, ‘Working Women’ magazine under the title “Essential tips for the rookie entrepreneur.” (www.womensnetwork.com.au)

Breaking free from the corporate shackles to start your own venture and be your own boss is a courageous step that comes with awesome opportunities. The potential for slip-ups and blunders are rife while navigating through the unknown, and riding the emotional waves, on the journey to entrepreneurship or self-employment.

A report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, which showed business survival trends over time, revealed 50 per cent of new businesses closed within three years. Success-critical components are easily and often overlooked in the start-up phase and mistakes are often made. Here are three common ones to be aware of:

Poor research means poor results

When embarking on a big, new adventure, there is a sense of urgency to begin. There’s adrenalin and excitement about getting started straight away. Not completing some essential research and groundwork before jumping in can be a big mistake.

Being clear on why you want to make the move is important. Why are you wanting to leave your job? Why does it matter? The answers need to go beyond just being disgruntled in your current work position. The odd bad day or a boss you don’t seem to get along with aren’t reasons to decide to quit. It needs to be more than a transient state.

We all have great ideas. That doesn’t necessarily mean others will share the same sentiment. When it comes to having an idea that will be the crux of your new business venture, you need to determine if there is a market for it and if it is something potential customers want. You’ll need to assess who your competitors are too. Not researching these things will mean you won’t get the strategy right at the outset and worse case, spend time and money developing something you won’t be able to sell.

The time and cost involved to get started can easily be underestimated. Spending some time upfront to research costs involved and determine time requirements is critical to ensure you don’t run out of money or waste time.

Same same but different

A common mistake is to assume you can just do what you do in your job today but in a different capacity as your own boss. Relying solely on your technical skills will not get you far. There are additional skills required outside the corporate confines. For example, you could be the best accountant out there, but if you were to set-up your own accounting practice, your skills in sales and marketing will be just as critical as your technical accounting prowess.

You will need to wear many different hats to manage a variety of responsibilities and tasks. From being a decision maker on strategy to being the stationery buyer, or from being the sales master to being the finance guru, you need to be prepared for challenging tasks, especially things you haven’t done before.

Don’t get caught up thinking things won’t change on the home front either. Our personal relationships can easily be impacted by a change in career path because it is a major shift in direction. It’s beneficial for you if family and friends are able to provide support, understanding and encouragement.

Working harder or smarter?

Another key trap when starting out is not being clear on the things to focus on first. Focusing on the wrong things and keeping yourself ‘busy’ can ultimately slow down your progress. For example, business cards and websites are great, and are required for the majority of businesses, though it is easy for too much time to be spent on tasks that are easy or fun. There are other priorities. Cash flow is a priority in the early stages so your efforts need to be directed to tasks that will encourage the flow of cash in, and reduce the amount of cash pouring out. For some, this may mean having some clients on board before having a fully functional website. It’s important to be disciplined, prioritise and do the uncomfortable stuff. Time is a critical resource. As Jim Rohn said, “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

While there are many potential traps to fall into, the biggest shortcoming is not taking some form of action to get started, today. That could be engaging a mentor, growing your network, or crafting an escape plan! As Peter Marshall said, “Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”It’s the small steps and consistent actions that help to avoid the pitfalls and deliver the biggest breakthroughs.

Read more tips and insights in my latest book, ‘Ditch The Ladder: Escape The Corporate Trap’, which I wrote in an effort to help others contemplating taking the leap from corporate to set up a business’.
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