The first thing to recognise when starting your own business is that your degree rarely has a bearing on your ability to succeed. While qualifications may be essential for some self-employed professionals, such as dentists and barristers, it is personal drive, attitude and confidence that generally define key entrepreneurs, and self-employed individuals with qualifications need these attributes, too.
Essential qualities include:
- total commitment to hard work;
- acceptance of uncertainty;
- originator/investor characteristics;
- planner/organiser characteristics.
Sir Richard Branson and Sir Alan Sugar are all examples of successful business people who possess these traits but don’t have a degree.
Have you got what it takes?
In terms of your attitude to this way of life and working, you should ask yourself the following questions:
Could you be a (calculated) risk taker? No business is risk free, so you need to judge the level of danger correctly and then be sufficiently well prepared to live with the consequences.
What is your response to uncertainty? Do you find this exciting rather than worrying? Are you prepared for changing markets, competition, and economic fluctuations?
Do you see change as a challenge? Can you minimise its downsides by careful thought and planning?
Are you opportunity aware? Given even half a chance, do you take it? Better still, can you see it coming before anyone else does? Or are you too cautious or over-analytical?
How hard can you work? Being self-employed is not an easy option, especially if you are working on your own. Results are often only produced by working long hours and doing routine tasks rather than bringing off high-powered business deals.
Are you a realist? Can you gauge in practical terms what can be achieved or produced within a certain period? In business terms this translates into:
- being aware of limitations;
- striving for speed, efficiency and quality;
- pricing your output so that it appeals to clients but at the same time pays you a realistic wage.
Can you see the consumer’s point of view? Are you able to visualise the product or service you are offering through your customer’s eyes?
How well organised are you? You will have to be an excellent time manager. If you do not already possess this skill, it can and must be learned. How else will you:
- juggle tasks;
- meet multiple deadlines;
- prioritise conflicting demands;
- cope with basic administration such as sending out invoices?
Do you plan ahead? You need to do this to minimise uncertainties and maximise your chances of success.
Will you be able to network? It is essential to be able to market yourself and your business, often in social situations. Constantly putting yourself in a position to meet potential customers or contacts is a prerequisite.
Are you literate and numerate? What is your relationship with computers? If you are not totally familiar with any of the admin functions you need, you may have to pay other people to help with bidding for funds, doing the accounts and dealing with IT.
Do you have commercial awareness? Do you know how to:
- attract and retain customers;
- make a profit;
- corner a share of the market?
How committed are you? Do you believe in yourself and in your own business idea? Self-employment is not always a comfortable option or an easy alternative to finding regular work. Doubts or a half-hearted approach can be disastrous.
Are you self-motivated? Running a business can be a lonely occupation. No one is going to motivate you other than yourself.
What does professionalism mean to you? Will you:
- turn up to meetings on time;
- present a business like image;
- do the necessary homework?
It is essential to make a realistic assessment of your talents and work out whether you lack any of the skills essential to the success of your project. You may discover that you are in fact temperamentally unsuited to self-employment, or that there is training you need to undertake before you begin the venture.
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