Have you ever thought about starting your own business?  If you're reading this article, it's maybe crossed your mind, and as I'm sure you'd suspect, you're not alone.  Here in Canada, of the almost 19.5 million citizens in the workforce, over 14% of them already identify as self-employed, and on top of that are many more who haven't quite taken the plunge yet, but are thinking about it.

There's a lot to consider when deciding to start your own business and there are a lot of resources out there to help you along your way. We at 8lb-Gorilla are all about the little guy, the underdog and empowering you to take your ideas to reach its greatest potential. We’ve come up with a list of some pretty important considerations to have when deciding to start your own business, and have attached additional resources for each point to allow you to go down the rabbit hole of research and plan out your next steps. Happy learning…

1. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT FAILURE?

Are you a perfectionist?

Even if you are – are you okay with things even when they don’t go perfectly as planned?

There are countless articles out there outlining the “most deadly mistakes entrepreneurs make” or “critical mistakes every entrepreneur should avoid” which when taken at face value, can really make the idea of making a mistake seem like a terrible thing.  But let’s be honest, making mistakes are a part of life and everyone makes them – it’s about what we do about it that matters.  As an entrepreneur, it's important to embrace failure and see it for what it is – a learning opportunity.  Those articles I mentioned before are useful for that exact reason – it's the past mistakes of others that create the content for these articles so that you can learn from the mistakes of those before you. Peter Gasca's contribution to Entrepreneur.com concisely outlines why every entrepreneur should embrace failure and use it to drive their success.

2. YOU ACCEPT THAT YOU'LL BE WORKING LONG HOURS – AND YOU'RE OK WITH IT

Everyone talks about how entrepreneurship and sacrifices go together like peas and carrots. But in the age of the millennial – us entitled, idealistic and sometimes misguided millennials – if we don’t like peas or carrots, we get something else. Yes, it's inevitable that as an entrepreneur, you'll be working longer hours than most other jobs and will have to always keep the end goal in sight and keep in mind that what you sow now you will reap later. But working hard to achieve your goals and enjoying your life do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Check out this article by the Young Entrepreneur Council on Forbes talking about how you can achieve work life balance as an entrepreneur.  That's right, you can have your cake and eat it too!

3. YOU'RE READY TO LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF

People spend hundreds on life coaches or extravagant “quests” to find themselves – some even their entire lives not ever really sure of what they were truly capable of and wonder if they could have ever done more. If you want a fast track to learn a lot about yourself – for better or worse, become an entrepreneur.

I don’t need to tell you about what an entrepreneur is responsible for when running their own business, but if I did, in short, it's everything. In most cases, entrepreneurs need to be aware of, and often take part in every aspect of their business. From planning, marketing, recruiting, training, implementing, selling, customer relations and everything in between, you’re going to have to be responsible for everything.

When you're doing everything, you're going to quickly learn what you like and don't like doing; –initially you'll have to do it all either way. Wrong decisions will seem right, your capabilities will be tested, and it will feel like you've bit more than you can chew. This is all okay! This is what being an entrepreneur is all about. Eventually you can hire people or agencies to make up for your learned shortcomings, or ease some of the responsibility to focus on improving elsewhere. In the meantime, self-reflect, develop skills, and understand your strengths, weaknesses, values and goals.

Martin Zwilling in his contribution to Entrepreneur.com takes a step back and outlines not what you'll learn about yourself as an entrepreneur, but what you also need to know beforehand.

4. ARE YOU READY TO IMPACT YOUR COMMUNITY AROUND YOU AND BEYOND?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tim Mills, a Managing Partner of the international head hunting firm TeamBuilder at their HQ in the heart of Ottawa's Byward Market.  Sitting in an office most new-age tech start-ups would envy – with a pool table, craft beer keg, raw heritage brick walls and an open concept that blended the office into the iconic market itself – it's hard not to see Tim as an authority on what local businesses are capable of and of entrepreneurship in general. 

I don’t need to tell you about what an entrepreneur is responsible for when running their own business, but if I did, in short, it's everything. In most cases, entrepreneurs need to be aware of, and often take part in every aspect of their business. From planning, marketing, recruiting, training, implementing, selling, customer relations and everything in between, you’re going to have to be responsible for everything.

We spoke about many things (maybe if demand calls for it, future blog posts will just be our interviews), but one thing that stood out to me was how when you're an entrepreneur, the impact of your endeavour is multiplied over the number of people you employ. For example, Tim shared with me a situation where he recently found a tech executive to work remotely in one state for a large organization based in another state. The impact of this action directly impacts the economies of 3 locales at once:

  • The locale of the hiring company is benefited by any money made (whether through the direct or indirect actions of the new hire) that is funneled back into the community. This can come in the form of taxes paid by the organization, any charitable commitments the organization has with the community or possibly in another form.
  • The locale of the newly hired employee is benefited by having a member of the community making a significant amount of money that can be injected into the local community in any way they see fit. Whether that be buying food for themselves and others, money towards shelter, even going into local shops and making purchases there, this new employee now has the means to stimulate their local economy in ways they never could while not employed.
  • The locale of the headhunting firm itself. This area is benefited when the head-hunters get paid. That money can go into buying lunch in the Market, paying local employee salaries, or making investments in the office that draw on the services of other local businesses.

While your impact may not be as far reaching as Tim’s from the get-go, even just hiring one employee can have you responsible for positive externalities that proliferate across the world.

About Your Product/Service:

5. YOU KNOW YOUR PRODUCT AND YOUR MARKET

This one may seem like a no brainer, but if you're going to be committing resources to start a business, know what your business is about, what it offers and who its for well before you start. It’s easy for an entrepreneur to want to appeal to everyone and anyone, offering whatever it is that the market defines within some loose confines of a product or service. Sadly, such a situation is simply not viable nor realistic. You need to clearly define what it is you are offering your prospective customer, who it is your customers are and if there's a market need that your product/service satisfies.

What is the age of your target demographic? How are they most likely to find out about you? Do they use the internet? What type of website should you have to bring the most value to your customers?

If you can clearly outline these points, then you have the first steps necessary to justify starting your own business. James Caan from the Guardian has a very quick article outlining the importance of knowing your market.   Analyze thoroughly if there is a demand for your product / service and think hard about whether moving forward or not is justified.

6. YOU CAN BE FLEXIBLE – EVEN WHEN YOU DON'T WANT TO

Being an entrepreneur is a labour of love.  You're taking an idea from being just a seed in your brain, to a tangible offering that real people are willing to pay for with their time and/or money.  After you've put so much thought into developing a single idea, and conducting market research, it can be found that your prospective customers aren't actually looking for what you’re offering, but rather looking for something slightly (or sometimes drastically) different to fulfil their needs.  It’s important to read the writing on the wall and be hyper-aware of the ever-changing market around you to understand what it is exactly that your customers want and why they want it – even if it doesn’t exactly align with what you initially set out to do.  The importance of pivoting and iterating cannot be understated.  Know that you probably won't get things 100% right from the get go, but as we know from earlier, making mistakes are a part of the experience but useless if you don't learn from it.

Geri Stengel contributed a short piece to Forbes showcasing how one entrepreneur pivoted her mildly successful business after an economic downturn and never looked back.

7. YOU'RE READY TO BUILD A BRAND

How much do you identify with your name? Your face? Your goals? Even your voice?  Probably a lot, right? These are all things that make up your identity, and as we learned earlier, you have to know yourself in order to be successful.  The same can be said for a business.  Without a solid name, logo/website (face), objectives (goals) or marketing (voice), what would attract potential customers to your business?

Column Five Media, a branding agency for many 800 lb gorillas in the world, released this excellent step-by-step guide on building a brand identity that we at 8-lb Gorilla adhere with completely – with a few additional considerations.

That wraps up our first post! If you're considering to start up your own business, looking to refresh your existing business, or to pivot into something completely new, be sure to consider each of these points and if you would like to get a second opinion on what you need, always feel free to reach out!