The Conservative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business
Inspired by this month’s Moms Making Six Figures Podcast where I sat down with Heather Bifulco, my new friend, organizational goddess, and founder of Tidy Style who became a business owner out of a need to find a career that worked around her most important title—Mom. After staying at home to raise her two daughters and finding the time freedom to return to the workforce, Heather realized she was looking for a career that didn’t exist. So, she created it. Through Tidy Style, Heather has created a career that provides other mothers with the same opportunities she was seeking –flexibility, fulfillment, and an opportunity to be intentional and present in your work life and home life.
If you’ve ever considered starting your own business, that thought was likely just as quickly replaced with your own reservations and risk averse tendencies. Your logical side overpowering your creative and enterprising side as you ran through all of the “rules” successful entrepreneurs live by. But, just as there are ideal clients, there are also ideal approaches to being a business owner that don’t require you to leave your personality at the door and step into a charismatic costume of a risk taker. You can still achieve success without sacrificing your bottom line, going into the red, or leaping without a safety net in place first.
Establish Your Safety Net
Many well-intentioned entrepreneurs will tell you to simply, “Go for it!” –that your daydream cannot become your reality while still working your day job, but if the thought of walking away from your desk job and 401k match of ten years is giving you cause for pause, listen to your gut and know there is more than one way to ‘make the leap’. We advise meeting with a financial planner to explain your goals of starting your own business and doing your research to determine what your “walk away wage” will be. When you have that nest egg set aside, stable benefits, and the time is right, you can make the leap knowing you have a secure safety net in place.
This may mean working on your business while also working your 9-5, but a year (or more) of hard work can ensure you start your business without unnecessary risk. Be sure you leave your current profession on good terms, fulfilling any final obligations, overseeing transitions, etc. so that the door will remain open for you if needed.
Find Your Niche
Evaluate your skills, and your list of wants in starting your own business. It’s important that you know your why so that when the stability of your former work life starts calling, you can refocus on your vision and your legacy. In the case of both Heather and Heidi, beyond the flexibility of having more time to be present for their families, it was the ability to provide that same opportunity for other working mothers that drove them to stay the course of entrepreneurship.
When you’ve identified your why and you’ve paired it with your skills, look for mentors in the market who are already successful in the start-up you wish to create. Learn from their example and emulate their framework in a way that feels authentic to you, your community, and your brand.
Pay Yourself, Then Roll Your Profits
One of the key components to starting your business conservatively is to know your profit margin. As a result, you can make intelligent choices to reinvest your profit back into your business as soon as you’ve paid your employees and yourself. Know that your growth will be slow and will take time, but in handling your finances this way, you are also reducing the risk of going into the red.
Heather talks about the time it took for her to have the financial stability in her business to begin carrying an inventory and that until that number was achieved, all product was purchased for each job and returned if unused. If it isn’t billable to your client, chances are it isn’t a necessary expense.
Delegate and Edify to Scale Your Start-Up
When you’ve invested enough of your profit back into the business, and you have established systems and routines in place, and a consistent clientele, it’s time to start buying back your time as a business owner (assuming that time freedom was one of the reasons you wanted to step away from your 9-5). Determine the tasks you struggle to do/the tasks that are not part of your skill set, followed by the tasks you don’t want to do, and finally look at the tasks that align with your staff’s unique skill sets as areas of opportunity and begin delegating.
If you are unable to have a singular focus and oversee your business, you are unable to scale it, let alone edify your employees. While this task delegation will come at a financial cost to your profits, it will allow you to focus on your why, give you back time, and allow you to scale your business in an organic way that rewards your employees with more opportunity.
We often talk ourselves out of pursuing our dreams because we don’t fit the mold that already exists, and yet breaking that mold and creating a business that is as unique as we are, is likely the very thing that will ensure our success. You can take calculated risks without risking it all, you can build a staff while still paying yourself, and you can start small –if you are willing to stay the course—and still build a great business and legacy.