“Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” – Stephen R. Covey
(This post is part of a short series of blog posts on the eight stages of entrepreneurship.)
Most of us have had a business idea at one time or another. It floats around in the recesses of our minds, appearing now and then to stir a sense of excitement and wonder. We dream of being the boss and the success it might bring. This kind of daydreaming can be one of the first signs we may be on the verge of starting a new business.
In this blog post, I will share some of my observations working with solopreneurs in the aspirations stage, its challenges and how one can be ready for business ownership.
Business Building As A Distinct Set Of Activities
Before I begin, I want to highlight one of my motivations for writing these posts. The common perception I encounter when people are starting a business is that it is a set of amorphous activities with no definite beginning or ending. From my view, it’s almost like hard work and guesswork is the path to business success.
My experience has revealed many patterns in startup and early years in business. There are common problems solopreneurs face at various stages of preparing for or during business ownership. In my view, starting a business is very predictable!
The Aspirations Stage
For each stage, I’ll provide a brief stage description, entry and exit points, challenges and the most common resources needed. In this way, I hope to provide a roadmap of sorts to help solopreneurs identify their business stage and where they should focus their attention.
The aspirations stage occurs when an individual begins to consider starting a business. No definite business idea has coalesced, thoughts are incomplete, and emotions range from excitement to confusion. Aspiring solopreneurs in this stage take action in fits and starts that can last many years.
The objective of this stage is to prepare a foundation for business ownership through personal readiness.
Stage Entry and Exit Points
The aspirations stage begins when a solopreneur begins to think about starting a business and ends when the entrepreneur begins to search actively for a business idea.
Challenges Encountered In The Aspirations Stage
Aspiring solopreneurs often begin to think about starting a business as a result of some event in their life. In the business development world, we call these triggers. Triggers are life events, either positive or negative; that results in the aspiring entrepreneur becoming motivated to exploring the possibility of business ownership.
Negative Life Events
Negative life events can have profound influences on the trajectories of aspiring solopreneurs And unfortunately in the wrong direction. These events often result in strong negative thoughts and emotions. Here are a few examples of negative life events that aspiring entrepreneurs state as their primary reason for going into business:
· Laid off from work
· A need for money
· Family member has lost a job
· Experiencing a mid-life crisis
· Frustration caused by employer
· Lack of accomplishment
· Wanting control over work
Negative life events usually occur in one’s persona life. They are often emotionally challenging and motivate the solopreneur to find quickly a solution to their problem. Aspiring solopreneurs often do not seek advice, but often pursue money instead believing that is the only solution that matters.
The “Someday” Trap
Special mention goes to a very common pitfall in this stage. It is called the ‘someday” trap. It happens when an aspiring solopreneurs spends more time contemplating going into business than taking action. I have seen this state of affairs go on for years!
There are many reasons for the lack of action, here are a few common ones. Often the aspiring solopreneur is dealing with a fear of some future event. This could be a fear of success, fear of failure, fear of the unknown or another type of fear. The fear traps them in place and keeps them from taking action. Another common pattern is the aspiring solopreneur overthinks the question of going into business. They want to know anything, and everything about the business and they are constantly reading and asking questions. Despite having a wealth of information at their fingertips, they take no action. Finally, lack of commitment is another common pattern, when the aspiring solopreneur likes the idea of owning a business but is not willing to do the work of starting one.
Being in business is not something you will ever learn to do passively. You can’t read or listen your way into starting a business. You have to act and through those actions, you receive feedback that guides your way forward. The best way to fight the “someday trap” is to start taking action today and begin learning where you can create a result.
Positive Life Events
Negative life events push people into exploring the possibility of starting a new business while positive life events pull people towards starting a business. Positive life events are more inspirational in nature. Here are a few examples of positive triggers:
· Inspired to explore business ownership by a family member or friend in business
· Perception of a more concrete way to improve a situation
· Inspired by a book, author or entrepreneur
· Aspirations to change the world
· Desire to create income or wealth for the family
· Wanting for flexible time with the family
· Wishes to build a business based on their talents
Positive life events, on the other hand, are sources of inspiration. They help motivate a solopreneur to learn what is needed to build their business. Solopreneurs who are inspired ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. They have time and motivation to learn what to do and why to do it. Given the thoughtfulness involved, it is no wonder inspired solopreneurs are more successful.
While this early motivation is useful, it is rarely enough to sustain a business effort over many years. Aspiring solopreneurs must find a source of long-term motivation to fuel their business building efforts. This kind of motivation typically comes from a personal passion. A passion involves the love of doing something, no matter if they are paid for it or not. This is a key resource for an aspiring solopreneur!
Even with the motivation to move forward and explore business, an aspiring solopreneur may not know what to do next. Remember, you either learn how to do business with your experiences or you learn from someone else’s experiences. The way to learn what the next steps are for you to start your business, you must find someone who has been there.
How to Succeed in the Aspirations Stage
Here are several steps you can take to meet the challenges often encountered at this stage.
Objective 1: Get Your House In Order
Here are a few things you can do that can help you to move forward. First, get your family support, the best you can. I could fill several blog posts with stories a family tearing each other apart while one of them is trying to start a business. It’s never pretty, and again it just draws the attention of the solopreneur away from the essential task that needs to be done. Your family needs to know you’re serious, the business is a serious one, and could have real rewards to them. It will take some sacrifice on your part and maybe someone there’s however.
Entrepreneurship is a unique set of experiences. Your family will never understand it at the level that you do. Nevertheless, it’s important that you give them up to date on what’s happening. Share with them the ups and downs and they may feel more connected to it.
The area that receives the most attention is typically money. They may feel that you are taking an unnecessary risk with not only your money but theirs as well. If you share them your planning and preparation, it will help immensely in reducing these kinds of conflicts. If you have done your job in preparing for business ownership and preparing them for business ownership, they will be more willing to share in that risk.
Last and certainly not least, you MUST have command of your finances. You must know what’s coming in and what’s going out. You must have an understanding of your credit score. If you lack financial skills, find financial training as soon as you can. More on this and later blog posts.
Living an entrepreneurial life means you must find balance in your business life and your home life. The stability is you the time and some resources that you can put toward starting your business.
Objective 2: Find Your Passion
How can someone find their passion? When I’m working with the aspiring solopreneurs, I will look to their past for clues. What kinds of jobs have been done in the past? What are their hobbies? What are the things that they love to do? And all these activities I look for achievements. Achievements can indicate areas of motivation and skill mastery.
Here are a few questions I often ask aspiring solopreneurs:
· How many years of formal education do you have?
· What is your job experience?
· What kinds of training and certifications have you participated in?
· What are your interests?
· What kinds of businesses having started in the past?
· What do you like to do that you are not being paid to do?
Answers to these questions can provide clues to areas where the aspiring solopreneurs has shown passion.
Objective 3: Find Startup Expertise
Business is all about experiences. It’s through learning by doing things that solopreneurs gain valuable knowledge. Thus, you will either learn from your experiences or the experiences of others as you start your business.
Given that startups have some risk (I’m modest here) it’s advisable to seek out others with startup experience. This can be through business mentors, entrepreneurial programs, or other business trainers and advisers. The trick is to find someone that can guide you through the next steps and it’s not always easy. The business expert has to be familiar enough with your situation to be able to guide you to the next step.
The challenges are that business experiences come in all shapes colors and sizes. You can have business people that have been self-employed, or you can have business people that come from the corporate sector. These experiences are not the same.
You can find business expertise quite quickly. You can use your friends family networks to try to locate someone who could be a source of business knowledge. You can also look into community resources to find nonprofits and government organizations that are in the business of helping entrepreneurs. Chambers of Commerce are another great source of information that can lead you to the right person.
Once you find someone that you would like to talk to, take them for coffee if you can. Listen carefully to what they have to tell you. If by the end of that coffee you have a clear understanding of what your next step is, meet with this person again. Advice at this stage is only worthwhile if it is actionable.
Searching For A Business Idea
Once you have found your motivation and put your house in order, you are ready to start searching for business ideas. Knowing your passions, strengths and weakness are an important part of finding a good match.
In the next blog post, I will cover the idea stage, its challenges and how to make the most of it.
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Also published on Medium.