No matter what kind of business you're thinking about launching, it's important that you think it through fully before you get started. Here's Richard Branson's 10 questions to ask yourself before you start a business...
1. Do you tell everyone that you’re an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs rarely have the time to announce to the world that they are entrepreneurs. They’re too busy and focused on their work to worry about how they are perceived.
2. Are you working on your business full time, or is that your goal?
Entrepreneurship is not a part-time role or a fill-in between salaried jobs. You’re either in it with the goal of making your business a success or it won’t survive in the long term. If job security and regular working hours are important to you, then this is not the role for you!
3. What is motivating you to launch your business?
You’re not an entrepreneur if you’re launching your business strictly for the money. It’s true that we all need to earn a living, and if you stay focused and put in the sweat equity you might make a lot of money someday, but cash cannot be your primary motivation.
4. What are your goals for your business?
Entrepreneurs don’t generally start out with visions of building huge corporations. I had no plans to create a global company any more than Steve Jobs envisioned that Apple would become four times more valuable than General Electric: I set out to make music, and Steve wanted to build computers. That was about the sum total of it.
5. Is fear of failure stopping you from trying out your ideas?
Entrepreneurs are not afraid of failure, but instead learn from it and move on. Some of the greatest disruptors the business world has ever seen have gone bankrupt in pursuit of their dreams – Henry Ford and Walt Disney to name two.
6. Do you worry about what people think of you?
As an adjunct to number five, entrepreneurship calls for a thick skin and a high capacity for tolerating discomfort. If you have trouble with risk or criticism then you shouldn’t get into the business. And ducking blame is not an option: In your business’s early days, the buck has nowhere to stop except with you, so you need to be able to handle it.
7. Do you welcome the spotlight?
You have to put yourself forward. If you’re not prepared to step up and play the front man for your company from time to time, you might be better off working for somebody else. Don’t worry: If a shy, dyslexic high school dropout like me could get over his terror of public speaking, then anyone can.
8. Do your employees have to do everything your way?
If you’re a “my way or the highway” type of manager, then you are never going to be an entrepreneur – the abilities to delegate and collaborate are key traits.
9. Do you believe in yourself and your ideas?
Disruptive thinkers seldom come up with ideas that are instantly grasped by everyone around them. They must have unshakable courage in their own of convictions, and then some. Entrepreneurs have to trust their instincts and refuse to roll over when their bold new idea is attacked as being nonviable, often for very sensible reasons. Believers in conventional wisdom should not apply.
In 1983, when Virgin Records was our main business and I was working on starting up a trans-Atlantic airline, had I paid heed to my partners’ outraged assertions that I was “utterly insane,” then Virgin Atlantic Airways would never have existed. That doesn’t mean they were wrong!
Whatever the industry, it takes a truckload of entrepreneurial spirit, hunger, desire, courage and some David-like insanity to pick up a slingshot and compete with entrenched industry Goliaths. Which brings me to number 10.
10. Are you a little bit insane?
If you’re not, maybe you’re not cut out for the life of an entrepreneur. There are many rewarding and far less treacherous ways to earn a living, but few are half as much fun.