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It takes a lot of courage to give up a paying job and take on the responsibility of running your own business. There’s the financial risk, the possibility of failure, and in most cases, a massive workload to manage, so it’s understandable that many budding entrepreneurs are reluctant to take the plunge.
On the other hand, the rewards of running your own business and succeeding are immense, both financially and emotionally, and missing out on the potential of what you could achieve is frustrating, to say the least. If you have the desire to start a business, but worries about security are holding you back, there is another way to reach your goal.
If quitting your job is not a realistic choice for you, don’t give up on your dreams. The way you approach setting up a business will vary according to your circumstances, but any one or a combination of these tactics will help you achieve your goals.
Knowledge and Skills
Knowledge is said to be power, and there’s a great deal of truth in that idea. The more information and understanding you have on any topic, the better equipped you are to make good decisions. In terms of business knowledge, there are three key areas that you can work on to prepare for a move into business ownership.
Having a great idea for a business isn’t enough to ensure success. You need to have the skills to operate your enterprise, manage budgets and marketing campaigns, build good relationships with staff, suppliers, and customers, and understand the intricacies of profit margins, revenue streams, pricing, cash flow, and all the many aspects of running a business. Without a solid understanding of what makes a business profitable, you’ll find it a constant struggle to develop your business and make a decent living, and you’ll be subjecting yourself to a great deal of unnecessary stress.
Whether you have some grasp of business operations or none at all, studying for a qualification in a business related subject will benefit you enormously. The MBA (Master of Business Administration) is the gold standard qualification in business, and it covers far more than just admin. You’ll study topics such as finance, management, marketing, personnel management, communication, and problem-solving in detail. You don’t need to study full time for the MBA, as many first-class colleges offer distance learning degree courses for students. Have a look at the accredited online MBA programs in California, for instance, to see what’s involved and how much time you’d need to find.
It takes time to study for a higher degree like a Masters, so you won’t qualify overnight, and it will take dedication to get the work done. Depending on your level of experience, you can complete an MBA in two years, which, considering the status of such a degree, is pretty good going! You’ll need to be able to manage your schedule and sacrifice a lot of your free time if you want to pass this course, but it will make a massive difference to your career prospects, whether you use it to set up a business or to move up the employment ladder.
If the MBA isn’t for you, there are many other business based courses available online or that you can pursue on a part-time basis. A quick search on the Internet should bring up many possibilities, and you might feel spoilt for choice. You need to look for a course that fits with your schedule and the hours you have available, and you want to make sure it’s from a reputable institution that has certification or accreditation for its study materials. A qualification from a provider that doesn’t have the credentials to back up the quality of its course is not only going to be of little value as a qualification, but you won’t learn what you need to know either.
Another way to improve your knowledge of business is to gain more experience. That could involve a variety of possible activities, such as:
- Taking on new challenges in your current job
- Looking for volunteering opportunities
- Getting involved in professional organizations that represent your sector
- Signing up for emails, newsletters, and other resources that provide valuable information on business in general or your area
- Reading business, entrepreneurship, and management books
- Attending short courses, workshops, and conferences
- Building relationships with other people in your industry and learning from them
Combining study with gaining experience is the best way to ensure you have the skills you need to set up and run a successful business.
In almost every scenario you can come up with, a business idea can be scaled down from the original full-on version to a simpler, smaller model that you can operate without giving up your current job. Say for example you wish to start a retail operation and your business plan involves opening a store to sell your chosen products. Leasing a space, fitting it out, stocking the shelves, installing the infrastructure of your business, and employing staff would all need a considerable financial investment, and would be a full-time occupation.
How can you scale this idea down to make it a part-time role? To start off, look at what the essence of your idea is, which, in this case, is selling a particular product or range of items. Rather than selling from a store, think about how else you could trade; for instance, you could rent a pitch at a market, or attend fairs and exhibitions that relate to your product range. You’ve eliminated the need for a store, staff, and full-time management, and you’re left with a far more affordable and less time-consuming version of your business.
You don’t have to stop there, either. If you’re working full time and studying or raising a family outside of work hours, your time is going to be strictly limited. You might not have the energy to run a market stall, but you could transfer your sales to an online platform instead. Setting up a shop on sites like eBay, Shopify, or Etsy, is straightforward and doesn’t take long, and you avoid the hassle of creating your own website and marketing campaigns. The platform you use does all that for you, so all you need to do is keep your stock listing up to date and service any orders.
Drop Ship Model
You could also try the drop ship model, which cuts out the need for you to hold stock at all. You order goods from your wholesaler, which are delivered to the drop ship company’s central warehouse and orders are all picked and packed by their staff. All you do is keep on top of the consumer-facing side, communicating with customers and maintaining the throughput of stock. Amazon is the prime mover in this field, so have a look at their services.
There’s a cost to using a drop ship model or a hosted online store, but you also gain from not having to worry about website maintenance or marketing your products. This kind of mini version of your retail business gives you valuable insight into how your operation would work on a larger scale, and you can iron out some of the wrinkles, increase your knowledge and confidence, and develop your bigger plans with more insight.
Scaling a Small Business
This example is about scaling down a retail business, but you can apply the same principles for service-based enterprises as well. Operating from home during the times you’re not at your main job means you incur minimal investment costs, and you get the chance to refine your offering and work on improving upon the original model.
If your business idea is service-based, you could register with agencies that connect freelance workers to customers. You need to practice selling your idea and yourself to potential customers, and test whether people want to pay for the services you’re offering – and how much they’re willing to pay. By testing the waters, you can develop your business model so that you know it’s going to be profitable, ready to make a move into full-time business ownership.
Starting small is a simple idea that tests your business model and your own skills without taking any significant risks. You can identify how to improve your business ready to upscale it and work on any knowledge gaps you have. You can also start working on your plan for starting the full-time business you first envisaged, applying your new-found knowledge to budgeting and marketing strategies and honing them as you learn. You can start looking at opportunities to secure investment too, which will be easier if you can show how well a micro version of your business is performing.
There is a chance that you’ll find out that you don’t want to be an entrepreneur after all, but that’s no bad thing – it’s far better to find that out before you make any significant changes in your life. You may also discover that your idea isn’t going to work as you’d hoped, but that’s also a positive because it gives you the opportunity to revise it or start afresh. It might take a few more years to follow the slower road, but you’ll have a safer journey.