The Protégé Project

How to Prepare to Be Your Own Boss

How to be your own boss


By Erin Albert

For aspiring entrepreneurs, especially new college grads opting to be their own boss rather than report to one, the task of getting ready to launch a business can be overwhelming. Consider these tips from entrepreneurs who learned how to position a new business for success from the start.

1. Get educated. Prepare to take the entrepreneurial leap by learning about your future business, whether it's through graduate school, technical training, or simply reading and "being a sponge" for related information.

Andrea Bloom, a graduate of Harvard Business School and owner of ConnectWell, a provider of innovative corporate wellness programs based in Pleasanton, Calif., attends alumni events and panels discussions with entrepreneurs which, "provide ideas to help you move forward, rather than just corporate business leaders telling you something won't work."

After Becky Ruby, owner of Indianapolis-based floral design shop lilly lane, graduated from Butler University with bachelor's degrees in journalism and arts administration, she worked in the nonprofit sector before pursuing her passion for flowers — and eventually earning a certificate from the Chicago School of Floral Design. But when it came to learning how to run an actual business, she hired a coach, Charles Polcaster, and never doubted her talent.

2. Get "intrapreneurial." Thinking and acting like an entrepreneur while working for someone else, also known as intrapreneurship, can be another stepping stone to business ownership. Take Peggy Paul, founder of SheTaxi, a website that provides content focused on women's issues, for example. While working in corporate philanthropy, she learned everything from business planning to the importance of a company board.

"[Then], I realized with SheTaxi that I needed the support and perspective [of a board] to help me establish clear objectives and stay focused," Paul says. "As an entrepreneur, it's easy to want to do it all, and my advisory team keeps me on track."

3. Get comfortable with failure. Michaela Conley of Washington, D.C.-based HPCareer.net, a social media company focused on advertising careers in the health promotion industry, found that "trial and error" offered some of the best training to grow her business as she learned quickly from her mistakes.

On the other hand, Lynn Griffith, founder of Welcome Events, realized she was an entrepreneur after she was fired from her 10th job in two years. "I had a total intolerance for working for people who I either did not respect or did not have the knowledge and ability I felt I had," says Griffith, whose event management company is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

While you might not want to go out and get fired from your day job to light your entrepreneurial fire, the ability to seek patterns of failure can lead much more quickly to the path of success.

4. Get out there. In many ways, entrepreneurship is considered a "contact sport." "You can't run a business sitting behind your desk," says Denise Praul, founder of Accurate Tax Management Corp., an Indianapolis-based tax appraisal firm. "Get out into the world and start meeting people."

Serial entrepreneur Larvetta Loftin took that rule a step further by creating her own group, Leading Ladies International, because she felt there were not enough outlets to empower women.

Dava Guthmiller of Noise 13 Design, a branding and design firm based in the San Francisco Bay area, also created a women's network, Pow.Wow Network in San Francisco. She sought out other entrepreneurs to find talent, support and potential clients. Whether you join an established group or create your own, networking is an important element for any small business trying to get off the ground.

Fear of starting a business can be your worst enemy, but don't let succumb to it. Attorney Joan Champagne dealt with the "scariness" of starting her own firm by turning to a mentor, who ultimately advised her that the fear never totally goes away and she'll have to get used to it. "I'm still adjusting…I'll do what I have to do," Champagne says.

"There's never going to be the perfect moment to start a business," adds Kristin Kuhlke Cobb, founder of Cupcake, a Charleston, S.C.-based specialty bakery. "But, there are moments you know you're fully committed. If women can manage a household with kids, a husband, family, etc., beautifully, why can't we run a business beautifully too?"

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