Dear J.T. & Dale: I just graduated from college and can’t find a job. I want to start my own business, but everyone says I shouldn’t do it. I have some money saved and an idea for a company. I have no experience in running a business and didn’t take any classes about it at school, but how hard can it be? Do you think I’m crazy, too? – Keith
J.T.: No, you’re not crazy, but you need to understand the majority of first-time business owners fail.
DALE: Which answers your question, Keith, the one about how hard can it be. Every successful business is a long shot. But then again, so are many of the best things in life, like finding a terrific job or a wonderful spouse. Just because they’re long shots doesn’t mean it’s crazy to try; rather, it means that when it’s a long shot, you have to put yourself in a position to get better shots, or more of them.
J.T.: You increase your odds by taking advantage of all the free resources available, including literally thousands of websites about starting a business. As a small-business owner myself, let me summarize my own personal experience: It will take four times the money you think it will to start your business, and twice as long. So you need to start with the lowest-cost business model and with a part-time job to supplement your income. That will give you more time and money to get your business going.
DALE: My best advice on how to increase your odds of success is you need to realize while it might be YOUR business, it’s not about YOU. Critical principle: You don’t go into business when you set up a website or get business cards printed, or even when you open the doors to a new retail shop; you go into business when you have your first customer. Start there. You sent us your business idea, and it sounds workable to me. Now see if it sounds workable to potential customers. Going through friends and friends of friends, you can find business owners who might need your service. Ask for advice. Let them tell you what you would need to do to get an assignment from them. Do it right, and you’ll have customers and be in business before you start the business, if you follow me.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career management blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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