If not now, when?
While nature’s new beginnings always follow the chill of winter, the spring within each of us typically arrives in January. Wiping the slate clean on January 1st might seem arbitrary ‒ indeed, it’s smack bang in the middle of the financial year ‒ but it’s as good a time as any to get your new business up and running.
The statistics about our failure to follow through on new year’s resolutions are unflattering at best. Maybe 10 percent will stick to their goal. But the vast majority will be wavering by February, and most are back to where they started in 12 months. The problem with many self-improvement resolutions is that they’re made in haste about ingrained habits.
We’re also our own worst taskmaster. When we do things individually, it’s easy to slip back into old routines. The more people who know about and rely on the outcome, the more accountable you are.
The point is, starting a business isn’t any old expendable resolution. Starting a small business is a big undertaking that involves a number of stakeholders. It’s also probably the basis of your livelihood. There’s no option but to give it your all.
Here’s why January is the perfect time to change tack. We’ve even thrown in a checklist to prepare you for the challenging road ahead.
Sure, you can start a business anytime, assuming you’re ready. But the new year has a distinct ‘fresh start’ feel. Most of us have had a chance to regroup after a hectic year and reflect on our priorities.
People are looking around for work, optimism is high ‒ it’s impossible to overstate the role of optimism in productivity. There’s a collective sense of motivation as people look to kick old habits and better themselves. Remember the thing about needing a spotter? Hop into the slipstream before it fades.
Unless your business is inherently seasonal, why not kick things off when the slate is clean and the calendar is relatively free of commitments?
Your new business checklist
Stop. Don’t go any further until you can answer the points below. Before starting any new business, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions and laying out your strategy.
Does your idea have legs?
Not every successful idea had support at first. A lot of savvy investors have passed on ideas that turned out to be profitable. You can’t see the future, but you can take an educated guess. Even if you’re utterly enamoured with your business plan, you’ll need to do the requisite research on things like target demographics, competitors and costs. You know what your vision looks like. Make sure other people can see it too.
No one could ever fault Kramer’s ambition. His execution, however…
Can you cope with a financial hit for a year or two?
Prevailing wisdom says that new businesses won’t break even for the first few years. Even if the business is viable in the long term, not everyone has the capacity to basically press pause on their income. If your business is going to succeed, you need to have enough of a buffer (or sufficient confidence from investors) to make it through that initial revenue deficit.
Are you prepared to put in the hours?
Besides money, the other big investment you’re making is a massive input of hours. This is a challenge for even the most passionate entrepreneurs. The first priority is to love what you do ‒ that means the process, not just the outcome. Similarly, make sure the important people in your life are prepared for the journey and supportive of your commitment.
Break it down to small, realistic goals
A sense of progress is crucial to staying motivated. You know that feeling of trying to read a book with tiny font and no paragraph breaks? It’s demoralising and you invariably give up before the end. A book with a clear structure and short, snappy chapters is easy to digest because you feel like you’re ripping through it. Now forget the book analogy. Break your business goals down into manageable tasks with clear goals, and you’re far more likely to stay on task.
Get the right people onboard
You know when you were in the playground at school, picking teams with alternating selections? It was brutal ‒ friendships were risked in pursuit of success ‒ but that’s where the game was always won and lost. It’s always difficult to pivot on the run. Winning starts with recruitment.
By the same token, trying to do it all yourself is an express trip to burnout. Bringing in (and retaining) talented, motivated people improves your chances of success exponentially.
Whether you start your business now, in six months, or a few years from now, the principles remain the same. It’s not something you should start on a New Years’ Eve whim, nor something you can be tentative with. If you’re going to get started, do the research, lay out your goals and what you need to achieve them. Money and a can-do attitude aren’t always enough to make it. The most important ingredient for success is invariably the people you have around you.