The idea of starting up a company is exhilarating, romantic, and full of possibility. Most first-time entrepreneurs rush into it before understanding, evaluating, and eliminating some unnecessary risks. Before committing to building a business, it’s extremely important to assess if you are well positioned for sustainable success or inevitable failure. Being realistic about yourself will help you prepare for the financial, psychological, and physical challenges that come with owning a company. Take this short quiz to see if you’re really ready to startup a business. The next steps are laid out for you no matter what your test score turns out to be. Let’s figure it out together!
Answer each of the following questions with a “YES” or “NO.”
Are you financially stable?
Are you psychologically stable?
Are you physically healthy?
Do you have a support system (including a therapist) in place?
Do you create healthy boundaries for yourself and those around you?
If you care for children or elders, do you have people who can stay with your loved ones so that you can devote time to networking events?
If working full-time, can you allot time every week to work on your business?
Do you understand that you will be your #1 sales person for the first few years?
Have you learned how to engage in conflict in a way that will address and resolve problems while propelling relationships forward?
Are you coachable?
Add up the number of times you answered “YES!”
Score = 10
Congratulations! You’ve built a strong foundation and should be really proud of yourself. Now it’s time to focus your energy on determining viability for your concept. You don’t want to skip any steps at this point. If you have some questions about how to get started, sign up for virtual office hours with Kristen Cooper, CEO & Founder of The Startup Ladies.
Score = 9 or less
The goal is to be able to answer “Yes!” to each one of these questions. Launching a successful entrepreneurial journey requires a stable foundation from which you can build. There is no need to do everything at once! Take the initiative to minimize the risk of failing. Keep reading to start planning your next steps.
Develop a plan to become financially stable.
I once met with a budding entrepreneur who had a “business coach” who told her that she was ready to go out on her own because she believed in her, and they had “prayed on it for over a year.” Unfortunately, balance sheets don’t rely on hope and prayer. They reflect strategy, discipline, and a lot of hard work. In this case, the entrepreneur was a single mother, had no savings, needed affordable healthcare, didn’t have expertise in the industry she was pursuing, and had not yet closed any sales nor had prospects interested in doing business with her. That is a recipe for inevitable failure and heartbreak. I advised her to keep her job, build her skillset in tech, begin networking, and take the time to educate herself on how to startup a business. You don’t need to do everything at once. Create a financial plan that will allow you to care for yourself and those who rely on you before you take on any debt or additional responsibilities.
If you haven’t taken on investors before and hope to, it’s important to understand that financially savvy people want to invest in people who are financially stable. Often founders forgo salaries or take a depressed salary for a number of years to maintain as much equity (ownership) of the company as possible. Instead of making six figures, you invest your own money in human capital and/or product builds.
Get your personal financial house in order and determine how much of your own money you plan to invest in your company. We think these financial gurus are super helpful:
Psychological health should always be your top priority.
Mental health is often ignored while starting up a company - there’s just too much to do.
In today’s challenging times, there are even more mental challenges—isolation, stress, uncertainty, the pandemic, civil unrest and politics. Many people are experiencing issues with fogginess, irritability, exhaustion and bouts of anger in relationship to all that has gone on in the world over the last year.
After listening to hundreds of founders discuss the many challenges they have faced, it became clear that we needed a deliberate way to talk about mental health in a professional setting.
Our Mental Wellness for Business program provides education about the psychological challenges that entrepreneurs experience regularly while providing actionable steps to make positive changes. The goal of this program is to promote emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
We encourage all of our members from student through scale up to work with a therapist to ensure that you have the opportunity to better understand yourself and those around you. And to make sure that you have created a network of people who will support you and your family members when you need to attend events that will help your business grow. Our members have access to trusted therapists, social workers, and psychologists who can work 1:1 with you.
Here is a short list of some of our favorite therapists:
Lynn Hynes, PhD, Broad Ripple Therapy Associates
George Middleton, MHC CSAYC
Crystal Wade, MSW, LSW
Get your physical health under control.
So many of us have been sedentary during the pandemic and escaped through overeating, too much drinking, and opting for binge watching on the couch instead of exercising. Work with a doctor who can help you get to a healthy weight and address any underlying problems that have gone unaddressed during Covid-19. Support local businesses that can provide fun workouts and streamline your food prep.
Learn how to manage your time like a business owner.
Lots of founders are captivated by bright and shiny things. They’re idea people, not necessarily operators. If you’re working on a shoestring budget, you’ve got to be purposeful about how you spend your time to move your business forward. Following are some easy ways to manage your time and move your idea forward.
Determine how much time you can devote to your startup consistently each week.
Block the time off of your calendar to work on and in the business.
Use Asana to manage projects.
Create plans and back up plans for child/elder care. You need to be out and about networking and pitching. Have multiple people in your phone to call for support.
Join an organization that will keep you accountable.
Successful people are part of successful networks.
Smart and curious people learn wherever they go. Most networks today offer some form of education. However, it’s really the people within the network who are connected to people outside the network who are so incredibly valuable. Schedule enough time to understand the culture of the community, build relationships with the players, and learn about their networks.
When people notice your presence and absence, you know that you’re part of a community. Building relationships takes time, so make sure to dedicate the time to connect with each network you are involved with at least once a month. Women in particular need to commit to attending these events with rigorous consistency. Even when you're tired after a long day, you have to show up to build out your network.
Make peace with the fact that YOU are your #1 salesperson.
Yes, it’s true. In the early days of starting up a business, you will need to sell your product and service with the enthusiasm and persistence of a highly successful chief of sales. Developing a sales mindset doesn’t mean that you will come off as a cheesy and intolerable salesperson. It means that you will become more strategic and efficient about the people you meet. You will become quick at ascertaining problems and astute at introducing your solution. Once you develop a sales mindset, every meeting is about building a relationship that can lead to doing business together in some way in the future.
Lots of people start a business and think someone else will be responsible for closing deals. In most cases, bootstrappers don’t have the funding to go out and hire sales staff. The founder needs to close some sales to show proof of concept. This will help to build confidence in yourself, those on your team, and investors. If you haven’t been responsible for selling before, consider adding a sales mentor to your personal board of advisors.
Learn to manage conflict.
Part of building a corporate culture that is psychologically healthy requires having tough conversations. If you’ve taken the time to build trust with someone, you’ll be able to provide feedback in a way that moves the relationship forward. When things get tough, you will be the one who has to model appropriate behavior, execute policies, lead sensitive conversations, and in some cases, let people go. As new issues arise in the workplace, it’s important to keep current on how management is dealing with short and long term issues to avoid a toxic culture from emerging. Sign up for free newsletters from reputable organizations on the topic. Keep this article by SHRM at your fingertips: Managing Workplace Conflict.
Being a founder means that you are a repository for ways to do things better, complaints, and critiques. And you know what? You are privileged to be in this position because that means you also get the recognition and glory. So you have to figure out a way to be open to feedback (some good, some not so good), reflect on how you can improve, let go of unnecessary criticism, and adopt the information that will help you accelerate growth and create a healthy working environment. This takes some practice. Surrounding yourself with experts will help you to weigh information.
The Startup Ladies support budding entrepreneurs at the idea stage all the way through to when they scale their business. If you’re ready to join a community of entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations committed to your success, learn more about becoming a member and attend one of our upcoming events.