You rocked your career. You embraced the mission and advanced the vision of your employer … not to mention that you made money for them along the way. Maybe it’s time to do it just for you! Scary thought, but striking out on your own can launch you into a very rewarding phase of your career. If you do it, you will be able to set your own goals, hours, location, and work arrangements. You can develop the product or design the service you’ve always dreamed of promoting, and you can even decide with whom and for whom you want to work. You can take all of the risk and reap all of the rewards. Sounds too good to be true? Perhaps, but if you plan carefully and go in with open eyes, you may find that as CEO of You Inc. you are more satisfied with your work than ever.
As you think about this potential new endeavor, the two most important things to consider are what you will sell and to whom. Are you intending to market your personal skills and knowledge? Are you thinking about selling a product or service? Whichever it is, it’s crucial to identity exactly what you are offering and what differentiates it from competitors’ offerings. Why would anyone buy from you? Who would buy from you and at what price? How large is the market, and do you have ready access to it? Do not proceed until you have convincing answers to each of these questions.
Striking out on you own carries many responsibilities that were once covered by your employer. Now, you will need to do everything yourself or hire help. Pricing, doing proposals, writing contracts, billing, collecting receivables, bookkeeping, buying materials or inventory, marketing, sales, distribution, payroll, taxes and all human resources issues will fall to you. It helps to hire professional advisors right from the start which will begin the outflow of money. Before spending money, do realistic start-up projections as well as projections for on-going operations. Where will you get the start-up funding? How long will it take to break even or turn a profit? What is the limit of the personal financial risk you are willing to take? These are some of the many questions that you need to consider before proceeding.
Once you’ve decided to go ahead, you need to decide on the structure your venture will take. If you plan to market your personal skills and knowledge, contract work and consulting assignments are the norm. Contract work usually involves joining the ranks of an organization for a limited time period to assist with a specific project or fill a vacancy. Consulting assignments position you as an expert outsider, bringing to the organization unique processes or information not core to its business. You can incorporate or operate as a registered or unregistered sole proprietor.
If you intend to sell a product or service, you could build a business from scratch, buy a franchise or buy an existing business. Each of these options carries more risk than the contract or consulting route and it is wise to engage professional expertise at the outset. If you plan to buy a franchise or an existing business, do your homework thoroughly. Each of these options carries a financial commitment and you need to proceed with caution.
Finally, be realistic about your own strengths and limits. If you are naturally creative and intuitive, do you also have the ability to engage logic and common sense? If you thrive in a fast-paced environment, will you be happy working alone and will you be patient if things move slowly? It takes perseverance and resilience to run your own business. You need to be undaunted by set-backs and optimistic about the future. You also need an ample supply of realism.
It’s not for everyone, but if you think appointing yourself CEO of You Inc. is for you, go for it! Nothing ventured, nothing gained..