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Start It Up

Do you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

Alvin Fritschle

By Alvin Fritschle

Alvin Fritschle is the Chairman of the Board of First Bank, a community bank serving Southeastern Illinois and Southwestern Indiana. He has provided financial advice to numerous entrepreneurs for over 40 years as a certified public accountant and the President of First Bank. Over this time, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to assisting his clients with their strategic decisions.

Most people find the thought of working for themselves quite appealing. Being your own boss offers the freedom to work your own hours, make your own decisions and create your own lifestyle. However, establishing a successful business requires more than a good idea and a willingness to give it a go.

Even the most brilliant, commercially viable ideas need a strong driving force to get them to market. Unlike larger organizations with the personnel to keep projects on track, when you start your own small business, you are the driving force. As well as having the required level of skill, ability, knowledge and experience to run your business, you must be prepared to work hard and, above all, be clear about why you are going into business.

What it takes to start a small business

Running your own business can involve a great deal of personal sacrifice, particularly in the start-up phase, and enthusiasm can only carry you so far. If there are times when you feel like giving up, a clear objective can provide the extra motivation you need to keep going.

How you go about building your business and how you measure success depends on what you want to achieve. How you achieve that success may ultimately depend on your attitude and commitment.  If you’re in any way unsure that you have the right attitude and motivation to get your project off the ground, reconsider your options now. It is not feasible to run a business without them.

Doing your homework now will help you to determine if your idea is feasible and possibly prevent you from losing your savings.  Starting a business is both exciting and challenging, but it is also very rewarding when you are successful.

Identify your reasons for launching your business

Suzy Welch, the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist and TV commentator, said, “Those looking to make it as an entrepreneur need to have three things:

  1. A crazy passion for an idea.
  2. A burning desire to be their own boss, and
  3. A product or service that people will actually pay money for.”

Before you begin planning, you must be clear about what you want to accomplish with your new business and ensure you have the necessary skills to make that business a success. The first step in starting a new business is to be clear about the reasons you want to go into business for yourself. For example, you may be aiming to:

  • Represent a product or service that you are passionate about,
  • Have better work/life balance,
  • Make more money than you could as an employee,
  • Be independent and make your own decisions,
  • Create a business you can leave to your family,
  • Create equity that you can use for your retirement, or
  • Build a business that you intend to sell.

Evaluate your readiness to be a successful entrepreneur

Once you are clear about the reasons you want to start your own business, it’s time to do a self-evaluation to determine whether you have the necessary skills and attributes to be a successful entrepreneur.   The following self-assessment is designed to help you figure out whether you are ready to be self-employed. The more of these attributes you have, the more comfortable you are going to be about starting your own business. 

  • You have years of experience in the industry you are planning to enter.
  • You are prepared to undertake additional training to develop the skills you need or get input from specialist advisors. 
  • You and your family are prepared to accept a lower income until your business starts to make a profit.
  • You have sufficient savings or an alternative income to live off of during the startup period.
  • You are prepared to work long hours without the security of a steady income.
  • You and your family are prepared to take the risk of losing the money you are investing in your new business.
  • Your family understands the impact starting a business could have upon them and support you in achieving your goals.
  • You thrive on facing challenges.
  • You enjoy making and being responsible for your decisions.
  • You naturally look for ways to streamline processes and methods when approaching a task.
  • You are prepared to hire staff and delegate responsibilities to them or use the services of outside professionals when needed.

Another step in determining whether you have what it takes to start your own business is to talk to a more experienced business owner.  Talk to them specifically about the challenges they faced, both expected and unexpected. Talking to someone who has already been down this path can give you insight into challenges and obstacles you may not have considered.

There are also local organizations dedicated to the success of entrepreneurs and new business owners in Indiana and Illinois. Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Centers and Illinois Small Business Development Centers are good places to find free business advising, as well as workshops and networking opportunities.

Working with a mentor or business development organization is an important first step because they can guide you through the initial steps of making a business plan, deciding on a legal structure, and more.

Take the next steps if you have what it takes

A study published in Small Business Economics found that entrepreneurs who take the time to create a business plan are 152 percent more likely to start their business and are less likely to fail.  So, if business planning increases your likelihood of success, when should you begin the planning process? 

As early as possible: when you begin the planning process early, you start talking to potential customers and finding funding earlier in the process.  You are also building professional legitimacy.

For now, if you believe you have what it takes to start your own business, you will now need to determine if your idea does also.

First Bank can help with that, too—read our next article in this series: “How do you know if you have a good idea for a business?

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