“Your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is not concealing your idea from others or keeping your idea a secret. It is actually convincing people that you’re not crazy and that you can pull this off.” -Sean Parker, Napster
Although I began my own firm after leaving a cushy government job in September 2016, I did not “launch” or market myself to the public until January 2017. I had my doubts and did not feel like I was ready because I had never done anything like this before. I had never owned a business or worked for myself, and I was leaving a steady job with great pay and benefits (oh, how I miss the benefits). So, not only did I think about convincing others I wasn’t crazy, but I had to convince myself I wasn’t crazy!
Thankfully, I am not alone. According to a study from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), roughly 14% of the 27 million Americans of working age are developing or running a new business. In addition, 51% of the working population thinks that new businesses represent a great opportunity while 81% with the intention of developing a startup are already working on it. Furthermore, with the influx of rapidly developing technology and shift toward a service based economy, Information Technology (IT) services spearhead the list, followed by Advertising and Marketing, business products and services, health, and software.*
As encouraging as these numbers are, it is important to take important first steps in forming your business by seeking the right guidance for your company’s formation and operation, beginning with legal structure. Are you going to be a sole proprietor, or will you have business partners? Limited liability companies (LLCs) are popular structures, but depending on the volume of your business or the services offered, it may not be necessary or even enough. On the other hand, going out on your own as a sole proprietor is easiest of all, but also the riskiest, as you are personally exposed to liability.
Additionally, you must consider under what state will you form your business. This is important due to differing state laws, with some states having more favorable business and tax laws than others (Delaware, anyone?). Further questions include how will you operate your business and what will happen upon death or dissolution. Beyond initial structuring, consider short and long term goals, including whether you will hire employees. As an employer, you must be compliant with laws under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and laws against workplace discrimination and harassment, not to mention economic issues such as minimum wage and employee benefits (those precious employee benefits).
Finally, as inspired as you may be to step out on faith toward your new journey of starting your own business, know that success and monetary reward will not come easily, quickly, or perhaps even at all. Think of the business venture as a life cycle consisting of conception, birth, and upbringing, the same as the relationship between a parent and a child. Take your time in planning to conceive the business idea, but if it occurs suddenly or surprisingly, don’t panic. Rather, consider all options and make the choice best for you and your potential business. Next, once plans are in place for its formation, birth the business by making it a legal entity, yet keep in mind that just having the business is not enough.
Arguably, the most crucial aspect of owning the business is growing the business by investing time and money into it and making smart decisions for its growth. If your decision is not making your money back, is it worth the investment? If you are not generating customers or clients, what can you do differently? The beauty and burden of owning a business, just as in raising a child or life generally, is that there is no right or wrong way, only a way that works best for you. This philosophy transcends professional and personal ventures in life, whether it is starting a business, starting a family, beginning a political campaign, or pursuing dreams of becoming a star.
Therefore, whatever your dreams may be, remember that “Every great dream begins with a dreamer” (Harriet Tubman). If your dream is to run your own business, conceive your idea, birth your entity, and raise your business through investment and decisions that will breed growth. But first, get over the hump of thinking you’re crazy, unless in this new era of alternative facts, “crazy” means bold and courageous. If this is the case, then do not be afraid to show the world just how crazy you are!