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Is Starting Your Own Business the Answer?

   Article by Susan Bryant

Scott Stropkay decided to start his own business soon after leaving a good position for what seemed to be an even better position. After rumors circulated that the division he was hired into would be sold, Stropkay was laid off, and his career path was left at a crossroads.

Having always been interested in pursuing his own business, he took the entrepreneurial plunge and started Essential Creativity, a product design and consulting company. "The way I see it, the best chance at job security I can have is to work for myself," says Stropkay.

Whether starting your own business is something you've always dreamed of or one option after an unexpected layoff, there are several points to consider before striking out on your own. Jan Norman, small-business columnist and author of the book What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business, offers wisdom she gathered from the 101 successful entrepreneurs she's interviewed.

A New Business Is Like a New Baby

If you're a parent, you know how your baby changed your life in ways you never anticipated. You may have envisioned parenthood one way, only to learn how different reality can be. The same principle applies to your startup company. Your new "baby" needs constant attention and will keep you up at night. But with your commitment, time and energy, it will grow and hopefully make you proud.

Enjoying Your Entrepreneurial Interest Doesn't Equal Success

You may be absolutely passionate about your professional interest, but if the rest of the world yawns at your proposition, your business should probably remain a hobby, not an income source.

Do people want your service or product? And do you have the interest and ability to constantly market it to new consumers? Your passion and skill form the foundation of your startup, and your business skills must carry it to success.

Not Everyone Is an Entrepreneur

Can you live with uncertainty? Can you delay gratification? Are you persistent? Can you bounce back after disappointment? Can you find creative solutions to problems? Are you in good health? Starting your own business is, quite literally, not for the weak of heart. Stamina is required to persevere in the face of the inevitable setbacks and failures endured by an entrepreneur. Be honest about your desire to live the life of a not-yet-successful businessperson.

Even the Boss Takes Out the Trash

Working for yourself can be liberating -- no boss to answer to, no office gossip to endure. But there's also no receptionist to screen your calls, no cleaning service to tidy up your office and no technical support staff to solve your computer glitches. New entrepreneurs often neglect to mentally prepare for the unwanted roles they must take on to keep their business up and running. If your ego can't handle the small stuff, you may have problems adjusting to this new identity.

It's Going to Cost You

Starting a business can be a huge financial drain until you become profitable. Think seriously about whether you have enough money saved to survive without an income for one or even two years. If you have a spouse or partner, discuss how you will handle this financial change. Not only will you be spending a great deal of money on this new venture, but more importantly, a great deal of time as well. If you don't have support and encouragement from the important people in your life, your startup may be a lonely, uphill battle.

Despite these challenges and others, Stropkay's company is doing well. After being on his own for eight months, progress is, "slow but steady," he says. His client list is growing, he's added a few staff, and most importantly, he's making money.

Talented designers who have been let go by other companies are available for employment at Essential Creativity, which is an unexpected advantage for the fledgling company in a tough job market.

And the company's future growth? "Actually, if we can make it now when times are tough, there's no stopping us when the economy inevitably recovers," Stropkay says.

Optimism -- the most important entrepreneurial asset there is.

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