In my last couple of columns, I’ve tried to offer some ways to think outside the box about laying the groundwork to become an entrepreneur when you separate from the military.
We looked into the entrepreneurial mindset, got great advice from fellow veterans who are finding success, and learned about federal agencies and resources to help guide you through the process.
Now let’s look at the basic building blocks to starting your own business. If you already have an idea that you think would make a great business, you’re off to a good start. Here’s a checklist, based on my own experience in starting a business.
■Mental preparation. Are you ready to start working days, nights, weekends, long hours? Taking on your own business will suck up lots of your personal time. But if you’re like me, and love what you’re doing, it won’t feel like work. Passion will override the hard times, especially when you see your business growing. Just be ready to work hard — much like you did in the military.
■Financial preparation. Without money, you may not be able to afford the services you’ll need to set up a business. You can take care of some of the required Internal Revenue Service paperwork yourself, but you may find that paying a professional to help you set up your business is the best option. You’ll also need to take advantage of the Internet to get word out about your business, so you’ll have to factor in costs for a good website, and maybe someone to run it for you. The list of expenses just to start a business can add up quickly.
■Map out your idea. Much like a briefing about an enemy position, you will need to gather every scrap of detail and information about your idea, and create a presentation in your mind for speaking about it with the people you may consult for guidance. If you can make them understand why your idea will make for a great business, you’ll save time and aggravation. Everything is easier when you’re organized.
■Seek advice. As mentioned in my previous article, make an appointment with one of the government agencies such as SCORE, the Small Business Administration or VetBiz. Remember about bringing all of your work to show how and why your idea will work. If you know of someone who can be a great mentor, take advantage of learning the ropes from those you trust and those who can guide you through the process.
■Research veteran-specific programs. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Take the initiative to find out about programs and resources geared specifically toward helping veteran entrepreneurs. No one is going to do that for you. Do your own research, and don’t be shy about asking a ton of questions to learn more about veteran-specific grants or programs that can help you get your business started. No one will think less of you because you’re just starting out.
This is a basic set of steps to start the process of launching your own business. One last thing: I can tell you from my own experience that once you get rolling, it’s important to find the best people to work with you — people you can trust, who are as passionate as you are about your business.