(Written by LocalSource Contributor Kevin Hitchen)
As I walked out of the office on my last day of work, it finally hit me— I was now an entrepreneur. I had just walked away from my paying job, benefits and security to make my dream a reality. After more than a year of research, planning, and more research, I had finally decided to take the leap and become a full time entrepreneur. Crazy? Perhaps. Risky? Yes. Great decision? Definitely.
And so my journey begins. Two weeks after resigning, I met with a college student looking to start a business and he asked me for some advice. While I could not speak to him about what I learned from selling my business for $50 million (maybe I can write an article about that in a few years), I was able to share some of the lessons I have picked up in taking an idea to starting a business. Below is a recap of some of the lessons we spoke about:
1. An idea is nothing more than an idea
Lots of people think of business ideas—in fact, nearly a day goes by that I don’t think of a potential business idea. Unfortunately, this is where most people stop…they don’t execute. They may tell a few friends and family members about their idea, surf the internet to research it for a few hours, and then maybe a week later, never talk about it again. Sure, every now and then, the idea may resurface, but overall, nothing gets done. Execution is key.
2. Don’t be secretive about your idea
Unless you have some idea that you are going to patent, you will probably get more benefit from telling people about it and getting feedback. Be selective as to who and how much you tell them. Ultimately, most people are not interested in stealing your idea and probably cannot match the competitive advantages that you have (see lesson #1 above again). Also, think twice before requiring people to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)—given some peoples careers (i.e. venture capitalists), it would nearly-impossible for them to sign one.
3. Not everyone is going to like your idea
Before you start talking to people about your idea, you need to realize that not everyone is going to like it. This is normal. Unless your market is the entire world population, it is absolutely okay for some people to not like your idea. Gather feedback, ignore the bad feedback and keep the nuggets of good feedback. However, if all your feedback is negative and you and your business partner are the only ones on board, then you probably need to take those optimistic blinders off and refine the idea or pitch it differently.
4. Your priority list will be rearranged
Family, friends, relationships, health—you name it. They all become compromised when you decide to move forward with a business idea. Have discussions with your significant others before deciding to move forward and think about whether or not now is a good time to move forward with your idea. Keep in mind that there is never a perfect time.
5. Keeping your job and working part time can be an option
A lot of people think that in order to be an entrepreneur, you have to go all in right at the beginning. Keeping a job that pays a salary and allows you to move forward with executing on your business idea can be a great option. It may be time to make the switch to being a full time entrepreneur when you are getting four hours of sleep a night and your task list is growing to the point that it is affecting both your new business and your current job. Before doing this, review your employer’s employment policy and make sure that there is no conflict of interest between your current employment and your new business.