Q: I am not yet ready to be self-employed, but wish to be in the near future. What can I do in my current job to prepare?
We are all self-employed; even as employees of a firm, we are still primarily personal career managers. Still, some of us are, or will become, entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has developed a Checklist for Going into Business (http://www.sba.gov/content/use-our-starting-assessment-tool) that leads the prospective entrepreneur through a skills inventory that includes supervisory and/or managerial experience, business education, knowledge about the specific business of interest, and willingness to acquire the missing necessary skills. A commitment to filling any knowledge or experience gap is a very positive indicator of success.
Personal characteristics required, according to the SBA, include leadership, decisiveness, and competitiveness. Important factors in personal style include will power, and self-discipline, comfort with the planning process, and with working with others. Can you objectively rate yourself in these dimensions?
Peter F. Drucker, author of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, says that anybody from any organization can learn how to be an entrepreneur, that it is “systematic work.” But there is a difference between learning how to be, and succeeding as an entrepreneur. “When a person earns a degree in physics, he becomes a physicist,” says Morton Kamien, a professor of entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. “But if you were to earn a degree in entrepreneurship, that wouldn’t make you an entrepreneur.”
Why we are all self-employed
The reasons commonly given for people going into business for themselves are: freedom from a work routine; being your own boss; doing what you want when you want; boredom with the current job; financial desires, and; a perceived opportunity. Which of these might be sufficient to get you to take the risk?
How are you doing as a personal career manager? Trends toward downsizing and outsourcing will almost certainly lead to smaller companies utilizing networks of specialists. Fortune magazine suggests that “Almost everyone, up through the highest ranks of professionals, will feel increased pressure to specialize, or at least to package himself or herself as a marketable portfolio of skills.”
Xerox has published an article titled “12 Tips for Personal Career Growth.” The subtitle is illustrative of the challenges faced. “Personal growth is a journey that’s never complete. It’s easily sidelined by the day’s urgent tasks, yet it’s essential for long-term job satisfaction and advancement. Our tips include techniques and tactics that encourage personal growth and help keep it a priority.”
How marketable is your portfolio of skills? Many think they have several years’ experience, when what they really have is one year’s experience several times. Are you continuing to learn, and keeping up with developments in your field? The best approach to preparing for an entrepreneurial career is often to find some aspect of your field in which you can become expert. jbv.com is Dr. Vinturella’s management consulting site with tutorials on a wide range of topics in entrepreneurship, internet marketing and personal finance. jbv.com/library is an extensive set of links to anything an entrepreneur and market researcher might need. jbv.com/8steps discusses John’s latest book on business startup.