A popular un-credited quote floating around on the internet goes, “You were not born to just go to work, pay bills and die.” The quote always starts a fire in my belly whenever I read it. I just refuse to live day in, day out, waking up in the dark, getting home in the dark, only to retire and then start chasing contracts up and down till I die. It’s a waste of a life – this rat race and do you know the saddest thing about this so called rat race? Even if you win, you’re still a rat!!
Let me speak to those of you who are “winning” for a second. So you’ve changed jobs every 2-3 years, increased your salary faster than your peers and you’ve landed an official car. Is your plan just to keep climbing that corporate ladder? What exactly do you expect to find at the top? Whatever it is, trust me, it’s not the answer to your financial problems. You will always want more than your money can buy. Well, that’s if you are not planning to embezzle funds anyway.
If however, you are getting fed up of your daily routine and aspiring for bigger things, or perhaps there is a restlessness within you that you just can’t explain, perhaps you are ready to start your own business. It’s a daunting and scary process especially if you have what I like to call “a God sized vision” but it’s a leap you are going to have to take because the alternative is not palatable and you are running out of time.
What I find is that people don’t retire at 60 or 55 anymore; at least I haven’t heard about anyone use the words “I’m retiring” in a while. What tends to happen these days is that people work till they are no longer employable. They can’t change jobs easily because someone younger, brighter, with more energy will typically be employed over them so they stay with the same company until a downsizing or an acquisition deems them obsolete. If you are lucky, this happens after age 50 but being forced out of paid employment can happen even in your 30s.
The best way to avoid this trap is to start your own business and sooner rather than later. You may think that you’re not ready but perhaps you are. Here are 5 signs you are ready to start your own business.
You Know You Can Do A Better Job Than Your Boss
If the area of your passion is aligned with your career, you are a lucky so and so. If for example, your dream is to start your own Microfinance Bank (MFB) and you work for a Commercial Bank today, you are gaining invaluable experience daily. You are seeing every CBN circular, every credit application and every corporate decision in the context of your future business. Your perspective about the business changes from one of an employee to one of a business owner.
If this example applies to you, the day your boss starts making decisions that make you want to pull your hair out, or his, you are ready to start your MFB. It’s worse if your boss is unfortunately still stuck in employee mode, because both of you will clash….several times! You will be baffled by his reasoning, his approach and even question his competence.
Don’t waste your potential, get a mentor to talk to who will advise you on how to go about making your dream come true.
You Are Always Thinking About The Same Business Idea
It could be an idea or an opportunity but it’s something that you have planned out in your head over and over again. You’ve imagined how you will get customers, how many staff you need, where you will get your raw materials from and all that. Whenever you drive past a “To Let” sign on a building, you consider the location. You say to yourself, “Too big”, or “If only it were closer to the junction”.
You spend almost all your downtime and even work hours researching and planning. Your friends and family are probably already fed up with you for bringing up the topic at every opportunity. If his described you, you are ready to take that leap.
The Thought of A Promotion Doesn’t Motivate You
If you’ve been around the block a few time, as I have, you will start to pay less attention to all the trappings of a title and the status it brings, unless of course, the cold and dark elixir of office politics runs in your veins. Questions like why this person’s office is bigger than yours or why they have a fridge in their office when you didn’t get one when you were at that level stop coming to mind; you simply don’t care.
If you know deep down within you that the status that comes with becoming the head of so and so branch or division is a mere trifle compared to what your potential can get for you, getting promoted won’t be a do or die affair for you. The extra cash would be great, but how much more could you make in a year after being promoted? In this economy, getting N2 million extra per annum would be the best you could hope for. When you divide that figure into 12 months and deduct taxes, for the added responsibility, a promotion starts to look like a raw deal.
Most companies assign you a status car when you get promoted to a full managerial level. Depending on the size of the company, the de facto vehicle is either a Toyota Corolla or a Honda City right? Well, the thought of twirling the keys to a Corolla at the end of your finger won’t be a motivation if you know that if you resigned from your job three years ago to focus diligently on turning your idea into a business, by now, you would have been thinking about whether to buy a Land Rover or a Mercedes.
You’ve Taken A Glimpse Into Your Future And It Scares You
I was in my mid 20’s when I got married. I had a decent job in an insurance company and my pay was comparable with what most of my secondary school friends in banks were earning but many of these guys got married 5 -6 years after I did. In those early years of marriage and fatherhood, I struggled financially. With two kids in school, I went through my salary and savings in a flash.
I often asked myself, “Will I ever catch a break? Will this life ever get any easier?” I took a glimpse into future and I was scared. It was clear that as the kids get older, their school fees demands will only get bigger and I planned for them to study abroad one day. We also were not living in our own house and we had to buy or build one day. Where would the money come from? I didn’t see my salary rising at the same rate at which my expenses were and I knew that something had to change and fast.
If you’ve come to the realisation that you can’t afford to live hand to mouth for much longer, you need a second or third stream of income ASAP. One of them should be something you can nurse for up to a year while still employed but before it develops to a point when it starts impacting your work negatively, draw a line in the sand an turn your attention fully to it.
You Are Not Afraid To Fail
What holds most people back from taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, is the uncertainty that comes with starting a business and with uncertainty, comes fear. You are different though, you have a plan. Your financial projections show exactly how much money you will make (or not make) in the first three years and by seeing the numbers in black and white, you plan around the realities. Your marketing plan shows where the customers are, what they are buying today and why they will switch to your product and pay your asking price. Again, more uncertainty and fear dispelled.
The bottom line is that you have done your homework. You’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly on paper and you still want to do it. You know that there will be pain, sacrifices and hard times ahead but you still want to do it. You think of the perks you are enjoying today in paid employment: the foreign trips, annual bonuses, allowances that take care of so many bills and you are still willing to walk away from all that and start a business from scratch. Then you are ready.
Enough Talk, Act Now
Where do you see yourself 20 years from now? It’s a question that you may have been asked before but this time, really put some thought into it.
Next question: “Is the course you are on right now, going to take you to the vision you have?” If no, it’s probably because your earnings growth is stunted by your employment. Rather than ramble on, I’ll sign off by paraphrasing a quote by Lewis Carroll that summarizes the message behind this post: “In the end, when you are lying on your deathbed, you will only regret the chances we didn’t take and the decisions you waited too long to make”.