I joked last time that I was having an existential crisis about my own value by discussing how much I should pay myself when starting a business, but this week’s post kicks it into high gear as we ask: Are you the right person to start this business?
Well, now, these questions are not getting any easier. And, this one definitely leads to a lot more questions that I have to answer. For one, what makes someone the “right” person?
If you ask 3 different people who know a lot about start-ups, you will likely get 10 different answers (and I recommend asking as many as you can), but here are my answers:
First, do you have the skills? Do you actually know how to do the thing? And, are you licensed for it? Lots of businesses need licenses prior to operating in the state. It isn’t just attorneys who need licenses; even butter graders need to show they know their stuff. So, beyond just baseline (or superior skills), be sure to understand what licenses, if any, you need.
As of now, I haven’t found any specific state licenses for soap making, but I do know that FDA has some thoughts. I also know that my first few batches weren’t anything that were going to sell as my skills were developing. They were ugly. Take the time to make sure you know what you are doing and what you need to do to be allowed to do it.
Second, do you have the passion? You are going to spend a lot of time and effort, so you better WANT to do it. For example, it doesn’t matter how much I think I want to start a bookkeeping business, I do not have anywhere close to the skills and passion to actually do that. So, while, yes, I see the value and even opportunity in the market for it, that gap should not be filled by me.
For many converting from a hobby to a business, the passion thing can be hard. As a hobby, something is fun. You do it when you want, and you don’t when you have other things. But now, you may not have a choice. Successful businesses are rarely things you can pick up and put down on a whim depending on your feelings and an empty Saturday afternoon. Is your passion sustainable? There will be ugh days, but do you like it enough to work through those days? Or will having to do that activity day after day, week after week, take all of the pleasure out of it? I like to bake bread, on occassion. I’d start thinking very differently about bread if I had to deal with it every day.
Third, do you have the “periferies” (all of those things that are the baseline skill that are oh so important)? Do you have the time, the connections to purchasers, the desire to market, the bookkeeping skills? If not, do you have a partner that does? I don’t care how good my soap is, if I don’t have time to make it, advertise it and sell it, it is just a dream. If I do those things but don’t track my numbers, I have a very expensive, possibly money-losing, hobby.
And that is why this question, “Am I the right person to start this business?” is the hardest for me. Especially this last part. Do I have the time to make this hobby a business? I have the skill. I have spent the past year taking the time to gain that, and in the meantime, showing that I persevere the failed batches. But, time to do more than make the soap is a rare commodity. Therefore, for me, that is my sticking point. For others, it might be the skill, the passion, or the ability to make connections to customers.
All are very valid sticking points. It isn’t a failure to recognize the weak points. It is a failure to not identify them and forge ahead to find them out the hard way when things aren’t working. If you recognize a weakness in a key area, it may mean that particular business isn’t for you. No shame in that. I have lots of crazy schemes that I “know” will work, but I am not the person for them because of skill or passion. Or, it means you need to find someone to be your partner or employee to address that weakness. If that is the case, re-run your numbers to ensure they still work with money going to them, as well as YOU.
The important thing to know is that, just because you aren’t “right” for that business, it doesn’t mean that you can’t become the right person. Maybe you need to gain some skills, shift priorities or find a partner. Maybe you need to find a better business. It doesn’t mean you are never meant to be a business; it just means that it isn’t right now. OR, even scarier, you realize you ARE ready! Then, let’s go!