POST WRITTEN BY
Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council
Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.
Budding entrepreneurs dream of the day they can leave their current jobs and start their own businesses. The trick is knowing when to make the attempt to turn a dream into reality. It’s easy to get caught in a web of anxiety and end up “trapped” in an unsatisfying job — but there can also be devastating consequences for making the leap into starting a new business too soon. So how does a budding entrepreneur know when the time is right?
To help, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council share the most important questions would-be business owners should ask themselves when considering the jump, and why.
1. What Does My Gut Say?
An old business adage says, “If you wait for all the lights to be green before you leave for town you’ll never leave the driveway.” This sage advice applies to anyone contemplating leaving a job to strike out on their own. While timing is a factor, you cannot quantify the exact best time to leave. The one question you must ask yourself is, “What does my gut say about leaving now?” Trust your gut. – Daniel Ortiz, Latino Success Academy
2. What Will I Need To Do Differently?
Budding entrepreneurs need to come to terms with being uncomfortable — at least for a bit. My biggest revelation came when I acknowledged I didn’t have all of the answers at the get-go. Through research and networking, I was able to duplicate all of what I had in my corporate life and do it differently as a business owner. I learned, implemented and, in the end, now I give myself a bonus! – Christine Mann, MANN Consulting, LLC
3. Am I Running Toward Something Or Just Running Away?
Are you running toward your dream, or are you running away from those things you don’t want in your life (a bad boss, poor company culture, too much stress/frustration, no work life balance)? You will need to be resilient! You will need fortitude. There can’t be any doubt about what you are pursuing. It should be calling you forth. Be sure it’s your dream/passion before you leap! – Kimberly Roush, All-Star Executive Coaching
4. Do I Understand What My Life Will Look Like?
Before starting my own business I spent a great deal of time talking to people who had launched their own firms, both within and outside my field. Ask these entrepreneurs a variety of questions about the work itself, business development, quality of life and other factors to understand what life would look like as an entrepreneur. You’ll be surprised at what they’ve experienced. – Scott Singer, Insider Career Strategies
5. What Are My Fears?
The mindset of an entrepreneur is key to the success of their business. As such, having a keen sense of self-awareness before making a huge leap can be helpful. The one question to ask is: “What am I really afraid of?” If they can embrace the discomfort of their response and still take action, they are ready to make the jump. If not, they might consider a deeper exploration of their fears first. – Carolina Caro
6. Is The New Opportunity Sustainable?
Too many entrepreneurs land a contract — even a big contract — out of pure drive and enthusiasm. Many times this seems like a sign of what is to come, but unfortunately it may not indicate the future. Consistent contracts and good business over a period of time are more indicative that the business will support the entrepreneur. Be sure, even to the point of exhaustion, that the business can be sustained. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
7. How Long Can I Survive Without Any Income?
The first year as an entrepreneur is a massive learning curve. Your goals shift as you find your feet in this new world. Opportunities emerge that you could never have planned for. To get the best out of this exciting journey, it’s important to have a solid financial cushion. So the question I ask is, “How many months can you survive without any income?” I recommend at least nine to 12 months. – Gabriella Goddard, Brainsparker Leadership Academy
8. Am I Happy?
The only question you need to ask is: Are you happy? So often we live the life someone else wants for us. This is not living. If you feel the need to start your own business, don’t wait. Follow your heart and do what you love every day. There is no other option. – Dr. Kathleen Houlihan, Dream2Career
9. What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
“What’s the worst that could happen?” is one of the best questions to ask yourself before making a major life change. You’ll find that the worst case scenario isn’t that bad — and it’s not that likely. Then ask yourself, “What’s the best that could happen?” Imagine the possibilities. Lastly, ask yourself, “What’s most likely to happen?” Breathe in and breathe out. Know that you’re going to be okay. – Kyle Cromer Elliott, MPA, CHES, CaffeinatedKyle.com
10. How Does This Benefit Customers?
Whether you’re leaping toward a dream or trying to escape a dissatisfying job, the No. 1 question you need to answer for any new business venture is, “What need am I solving and what is the customer benefit?” Too many entrepreneurs are swayed by their “cool idea” or “this will be fun” or “people will like this,” but they are unable to identify and articulate a business need for their venture. – Joanne Markow, GreenMason
11. What’s My Financial Plan?
Get clear on your current and future expenses, plus understand how much revenue you need to generate in the future. Before starting my coaching business, I solidified my personal budget, estimated a business budget and developed a revenue forecast to help determine my needs. With this awareness and a plan for the future, I felt more confident moving forward with deciding when to start my business. – Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching
12. Forget Career, What Do I Want My Life To Look Like?
People usually think about what they want to do professionally without considering the impact their profession has on their lives. I encourage franchise candidates to map out what they want their lives to look like first. Then we decide which franchise business model supports that lifestyle design. Otherwise, the business can adversely impact their personal lives, setting them up for failure. – Jim Judy, TryFranchising.com
13. Does My Service Meet The Needs Of My Market?
There’s a misconception that entrepreneurs are all big risk takers. Research shows the opposite — in fact, most successful entrepreneurs take calculated risks and often start their business as a hobby before leaving their job. Be sure you have a clear understanding of your target market’s needs. Before launching, carefully test and iterate your product to ensure it meets their needs. – Beth Kuhel, Get Hired, LLC
14. Is This A ‘Now’ Thing?
Before making the leap to chasing your (risky) dreams, everyone should ask themselves, “Is this a ‘now’ thing, or can it wait?” If it’s obviously painful or soul-crushing for them to put off chasing their dreams, then the risk is outweighed by the potential and, likely, the reward. If it’s a “now” thing, they are much more likely to be committed and fully invested in the success of the business. – Elizabeth Pearson, Elizabeth Pearson Executive Coaching
15. Do I Know The Behaviors I’ll Need To Succeed?
Do you have right the behaviors needed for success? Don’t know what those are? Find out by speaking with others who are further along the same path. Until you know what behaviors are required, even your best idea and business model won’t ensure you’ll get the success you want. If this advice is unclear, it underscores your need to better understand the behavioral factors for your desired success. – Jay Steven Levin, WinThinking
Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of leading business coaches and career coaches. Find out if you qualify at forbescoachescouncil.com/qualify.