When is the right time to set up a business?

I was lucky that I had a fairy godmother in the shape of a friend who asked me to cover her maternity leave part-time working for a big consultancy. This was a great opportunity that meant earning a decent amount of money while taking the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship. I essentially de-risked my decision for six months whilst I found my feet. This is an option I’d highly recommend it to cope with the fear.

What is there to consider when becoming an entrepreneur? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Don’t poach

What ex-bosses fear most is that their ex-staff will start to poach staff, clients and strategy. This is a well-grounded fear and I see many new enterprises start out by doing this. But I’m a great believer in karma and it’s true that what goes around comes around. In my sector of charities and social enterprises, the network is relatively small, so I’ve never approached a philanthropist, sponsor or ex-member of staff – trust means everything in a new role.

2. Get started and then work out what you don’t know

I see so many would-be entrepreneurs painstakingly scoping out the business plan and website details before they’ve even started talking to people about the sell. Until you get started you simply don’t know what the potential is, where the gaps are and what you don’t know. So get selling as soon as possible and once you know what the gaps are then find the best possible advisors to help you improve and build on the idea.

3. The best entrepreneurs enjoy the ambiguity

Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park and the responsibility of running a business can feel overwhelming at times. What I’ve recognised is that those that flourish don’t angst about what the future might bring or the unknowns. They see ambiguity as a freedom that allows for change, scope and development. It’s a great place to be, and being comfortable with ambiguity is one of the essential qualities of leadership too.

4. Never go back

There is a cliché around the owner-manager that once you’ve started your own business you are completely unemployable back in the real world – and I guess that’s also how I feel. There’s no way now that I could go back in-house and any ex-boss of mine would concur, I’m sure! I’d be the worst-ever in-house employee – irascible, impatient and demanding – so once you’ve successfully started something, my feeling is that ‘if it fails’ then it’s probably time to start up something new.

5. It’s got to be fun

If you’re not having fun then something needs to change. Fast-growing new businesses are tough and all consuming. It’s important to occasionally take a moment to rewind and remember back to that slightly maverick, now unemployable in-house member of staff that wanted a bit of freedom to start a new venture. If as an entrepreneur you’ve stopped having fun then something needs to change, and one of the great joys of being an entrepreneur is that the power to change things is all in your hands.

Michelle Wright is CEO and founder of Cause4.

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