Am I ready to start my own business?

Am I ready to start my own businessIf you’re reading this, the entrepreneurial bug has probably bitten you and yet you’re not sure if you’re ready to take the risk. Being unsure is normal; after all it’s a big decision to leave the comfort zone of a regular income and dive into something you aren’t even sure will work. Here’s a quick checklist for aspiring entrepreneurs that will help put things into perspective and help you make the right decision.

You have an idea you just can’t stop thinking about

If you’re thinking about starting your own business, chances are, you already have an idea that’s been occupying your every waking minute. You need to have an idea that you’re extremely passionate about, even if you haven’t worked out all the details yet. The most successful entrepreneurs are those who fuelled their big ideas on pure and simple passion.

You have a plan

You have your product or service idea and you’re sure that there’s a market for it. Before you decide to leave your day job to experience the life of an entrepreneur, make sure you have a plan, or at least an outline of your new business venture. This plan should include defining and testing your idea, setting milestones to achieve and understanding what resources are going to be necessary, for example how to obtain small business grants or gain access to capital.

You have a great support system

While your start-up may just require your effort alone, you are certainly going to need family, friends and mentors to help you. Your spouse, children and friends need to support you through this period, even if it means reducing expenses, picking up extra chores or mentally preparing themselves that they’re going to potentially see a lot less of you.

You’re not afraid of taking risks

A good entrepreneur knows how to embrace uncertainties and all the risks that come along with it. You have to be willing to acknowledge that security doesn’t necessarily add up to success and before embarking on your new venture, write down the major risks you think you might encounter and create back-up plans for every one of them. Doing this helps you to understand what might and could go wrong and should provide you with the peace of mind that you have a plan. It is also a good habit for all business owners to understand what risks there are at every level and size of business.

You are organised

Benjamin Franklin once said, “For every minute organising, an hour is earned.” If you’re not already organised, learn to be. Every day, aim to do one task that will help move your business forward and avoid cluttering your day with too many tasks. Instead choose a few important things each day and get them out of the way. These major things that are high on the priority list are called ‘big rocks’. Having said that, don’t forget the little, detailed rocks either as these can become critical down the track. Deal with them when you can and when you get the ‘big rocks’ out of the way to maximise your time and efforts.

You are ready for failure… and success

You have to be able to face the fear of failure and, as strange as it sounds, success. The trappings of success bring along with it more work, a need to expand and higher expectations. You need to be able to grow your business in real time, to keep up with or ahead of the changing demands. Having a business mentor and a great accountant can make all the difference when faced with failure and success as they have seen it all before and can guide you through most situations.

You are good at business development

You need to be 8-10 out of 10 in rating yourself at being and effective business developer. You need to toughen up to rejection, be able to present and pitch well to win business and continually market your product and/or services, face to face and on social media. Even if you are 100% delivering or manufacturing, keep up your marketing and networking for new business opportunities.

Focus, focus, focus

Be disciplined. Don’t get distracted by the next ‘shiny thing’. Stay focused on your core business and leverage those opportunities.

You recognise opportunities easily

Opportunities aren’t always going to be in plain sight. It’s up to you to be able to seize the day and recognise how to turn a situation to your advantage. People who are sensitive to opportunities are more likely to act on them. Also, don’t forget to network, networking is one of the best ways to seek out new opportunities and drum up business.

Now you may thumb through a dozen articles, checklists and maybe even online quizzes to deem yourself ready. However, it’s simply impossible to pinpoint the perfect time to start up and run a business. It doesn’t matter how long you wait or how much you prepare – you’ll never be able to gather enough business acumen, or enter a state of zero risk. So as long as you’re passionate, have prepared as much as you can to the best of your ability and believe in yourself and your big idea, now is the time to get out there!

I encourage women entrepreneurs to join a behind closed doors Entrepreneurs group to be mentored by successful business operators and supported by other like minded business owners and entrepreneurs.


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Why Women Don’t Network Enough

Why Women Don't Network Enough“Networking—creating a fabric of personal contacts who will provide support, feedback, insight, resources, and information—is simultaneously one of the most self-evident and one of the most dreaded developmental challenges that aspiring leaders must address,” says an article on Harvard Business Review entitled How Leaders Create and Use Networks. This is a well-rounded summation to the benefit of networking and also the challenge that many face. Women, however, are lagging behind on this important aspect of business and professional growth.

Men are succeeding at networking

Many men are great networkers. Be it at the golf course, or over a beer watching the footy, men are much more open to using such meetings as opportunities to establish their professional network. Passing around their business cards and talking about their business seemingly comes naturally to them; and this is a huge advantage when it comes to building relationships that progress into business opportunities. The value networking brings also extends to helping stimulate the interest of potential investors without having to ask for their money, and spreading the word on business without reserve.

And women are lagging behind

When it comes to women, they are still trailing far behind in capitalising on networking for their professional growth. One study showed that women are five times more likely than men to agree that they find it hard to network with senior managers and executives. Unsurprisingly, 41% of women find that their exclusion from informal networks is a barrier to their professional advancement. There are many reasons for this, some practical and some psychological, some of which are listed below.

Time is spent on working instead of networking

When you combine household chores and childcare into the number of hours of paid employment, women work 60-70 hours a week, according to a 2011 Pew Survey. This leaves precious little time to network, which is why it usually goes on the backburner. Women are spending time on working at their desks, achieving results and accomplishing tasks, rather than networking and top leaders in the industry recognise this as a mistake. Carol Bartz, former Yahoo CEO, and Lisa Lambert, founder of Upward, both agree that women should do less and network more given that leadership today is defined not just by how much you achieve, but your ability to connect to others.

Not making the best use of social media networks

Women shy away from using their social networks to advance their professional careers; usually because they feel it will portray them as being overly ambitious. This attitude is underlined by a study on use of social networking sites by gender. Though more women use social media sites like Facebook, Tumbler, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, more men use LinkedIn than women, which is the most important social media platform to build your professional network. So even though women are active on social networks, they hold back from capitalising on them for their professional growth.

Shying away from male networks

Women often stick together, united in doing things, and the same goes for networking. Although this is excellent in terms of gaining support, efforts should also be made to extend networking to include men, more so since there are more men in top executive level positions across industries. Take Venture Capitalism for example, it is predominately male, which means that more likely than not, women will have to pitch to male investors. By confining themselves to female-only networks, women end up restricting their access to senior-level sponsorship and relationships, which also means that women’s presence in those industries continues to be undervalued and under represented.

In a study on Women in the Workplace by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, which included almost 30,000 employees across 118 companies, it was found that women’s odds of advancement are 15% lower than that of men. The study showed that “Women and men agree that sponsorship is vital to success and advancement, with two-thirds describing it as “very” or “extremely” important. Yet they do not have the same type of professional networks, which may result in different levels of support.” A factor that contributes to this is that these male networks sometimes tend to have the mentality of a boy’s only club. This boy’s only club need not deter women from building professional connections with men; by learning from women who have found a way to break into the boy’s only club other women will see how it can be done and forge ahead as well. Share insider tips with your female networks and be open to connecting each other to the right networks that include men.

Networking certainly takes time and effort, and it will definitely require women to be more aware of where they are lacking in their networking efforts to be better at establishing connections. At Behind Closed Doors, we understand the value networking brings and we help women gain easier access to a large network of professional men and women. Women who have worked hard to overcome obstacles in networking are open to sharing experiences and advice in career building. If you’re looking to start improving your networking skills and establishing valuable relationships, behind closed doors is a good place to start.


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