That 'why' may sound a bit facetious on my part but realistically, it's an important question and a good place to start. It's important to understand your own motivations. As you dig deeper into what's required to get your business going, you will have to make choices. If you know exactly what you want or need to get out of the business, hard decisions will be much easier to make.
Why do you want to start a business?
- Do you want to be your own boss and quit working for others?
- Do you want creative control over your own ideas?
- Do you want the satisfaction of building something larger than yourself?
- Do you just want a decent income that can support you, your employees and your family?
- Do you want to get rich?
- Do you want to spend more time away from your family?
Okay, that last one may not be a good reason to start a business, but rest assured, it will certainly be a consequence of going into business yourself. Almost every entrepreneur I've known, whether starting a construction business, a retail business, a high tech business - any business, has put a strain on their family and their relationships. Many ended up dealing with multiple divorces. Between the time spent away from home - evenings, weekends, holidays - the stress that never seems to leave you even after work, and the inevitable financial crises, you likely will become very difficult to live with.
There are lots of statistics about the number of businesses that fail. In future posts we will discuss ways to improve your odds. But, I haven't seen too many statistics about the impact of startup businesses on entrepreneurs' families. If my own experience is an indication, those numbers are probably pretty bleak.
It seems to work best if you start a business during either of these two periods of your life:
- Before you have a family (kids) or much to lose financially.
- Once the kids have left home (ideally after college is paid for) and you have reasonable financial security: enough to risk part of your savings without completely jeopardizing your eventual retirement.
If you're married without kids, don't have too many financial obligations, and your spouse is supportive, you can often put in the time and money needed to get started. If your business fails, you can start over without having lost too much.
That long in-between period with spouse, kids, and financial struggles is generally not the optimal time to put it all at risk with your new venture. That's not to say it can't be done, but if you have kids, you'll not only lose time with them and your spouse, but your spouse will often resent you for not holding up your responsibilities at home. Think carefully if you're in that period. Divorce is painful. Divorce with kids can be a disaster.
Finally, perhaps one of the most fun times to start a business is when you've reached middle age and have survived that in-between period. You have experience, contacts, an idea of how business works, and an understanding of the financial risks you're willing to take. Wisdom and experience can lead you to success.
In Part 2, we'll begin to take a look at goals, the need for business planning, and considerations in looking at options for funding your business.