Are You an Entrepreneur? Answer These 5 Qs Before Taking the Plunge

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[Editor's note: Are you contemplating starting a business as a re-careering strategy? If so, stay right here. This week, the Reinvent Yourself series shares start-up advice from experts and women who've figured out what it takes. Happy ventures. -- Michelle V. Rafter]

As a women's career, executive and leadership coach and researcher professional women's issues, I help hundreds of women each year achieve their highest visions and goals.

Through this process, I've identified five core questions that are essential to consider before plunging into entrepreneurial life.

BlogHer|BET entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs at the BlogHer Business, Entrepreneurism, Technology Conference 2011


To become a successful entrepreneur, a confluence of factors must work together effectively. Unfortunately, knowledge, passion and commitment are not enough.

Before you jump into starting a business, ask yourself these questions:

1. Can I thrive in risk-oriented situations or the unknown?

Startups require a certain degree of risk-taking and walking into something that is not a sure thing. The small business failure rate is alarmingly high and you should indeed proceed with caution. To overcome obstacles, you need to not just endure chaos and change, but thrive in it, embracing uncertainty, risk and stretching way out of your comfort zone on a continual basis. If you are wedded to the need to be right, feel stable, secure and comfortable, be in control, and generate a predictable income (and can't imagine living with some debt), think again about an entrepreneurial life.

2. Do I know what I really want from this business?

Many women start businesses for the wrong reasons. They want more work-life balance, for instance, or are fed up with not advancing to a leadership position in their corporate job, so they bail. But these aren't sufficient enough reasons to start your own business. First, small business owners often work far longer and harder than they ever did in the corporate roles. In fact, their work lives and personal lives become so seamlessly intertwined it's no longer a matter of balance, but of effective integration. Second, not advancing in corporate America doesn't necessarily point to being a success in starting a business. You must determine what you really want (the essence of what you want in your professional identity and life), then figure out the best form for that to take.

3. Do I have an empowered relationship with money?

Many female entrepreneurs start a company with no prior business or financial planning experience. Further, they have a disempowered relationship with money, and lack the internal authority and knowledge to command and manage it effectively. The first step in starting a business is gaining complete control of your finances –- personally, then professionally –- and planning how to fund and grow a business. Get outside help in the form of a financial consultant and accountant. Many entrepreneurs fail to grasp or plan for how long it takes to build a business to profitability. In general, you will need two to three years of cash reserves to cover costs while launching a business, as you likely won't see profits until after that period of time.

4. Do I know what's involved in running a business?

Michael Gerber's terrific bookThe E-Myth Revisited looks at why so many small businesses fail, and explores three essential roles necessary to create a successful business – the technician, manager and visionary. Often women start their own businesses because they love the technical skill involved, such as baking, career coaching, software design, etc. They make the fatal assumption that understanding the technical aspect of the business is the same as knowing how to run the business. However, those are completely different skill sets.

5. Is this business in line with my core passions and mission?

It's a hero's journey to become a successful entrepreneur, to maintain the staying power, energy and commitment to make it work over the first years when the going is toughest. There has to be a compelling mission behind your work and a deep yearning to be of service. It is not a volunteer endeavor, it is a business; that you must commit to making profitable and lucrative. To do so, you need to know your core, competitive advantage –- what makes your business different from the rest, and how it stands out –- and communicate that powerfully in all you do If you're not passionate about the work, think again about launching a business.

Successful entrepreneurs have jumped into the cage with their fears and addressed all these questions. Think about your preferred style, values, needs and passions. Are you ready to embrace the entrepreneurial life?

If so, take the plunge, but don't wait to get the help you need. 2012 is your year!

Once you're ready to get started, one place to look for help is BlogHerEntrepreneurs '12, our second annual conference for women interested in business, entrepreneurship and technology. Register now for the conference, which takes place March 22-23 at the Citrix Executive Briefing Center in Santa Clara, CA.

Kathy Caprino is a career and executive coach, trainer, speaker and writer dedicated to professional women's advancement. Read her Forbes' blog, or follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

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Kaplan University provides a practical, student-centered education that prepares individuals for careers in some of the fastest-growing industries. The University, which has its main campus in Davenport, Iowa, and its headquarters in Chicago, is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (www.ncahlc.org). It serves more than 53,000 online and campus-based students. The University has 11 campuses in Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland and Maine, and Kaplan University Learning Centers in Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Florida.

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