It's not always easy to start thinking about a new business when you're working full time. After eight years in the Navy, Vinay Chadha transitioned to a civilian job in Veteran Affairs at the Office of the Inspector General, but always had plans to open his own business. When he came across Maui Wowi Hawaiian, a coffee and smoothie company, he began cold calling local venues, and was offered a vendor contract to sell at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Since Chadha was only a franchisee for three months, he didn't have so much as a blender. He had to quickly acquire two more mobile carts, hire employees and purchase products, all while staying afloat at work. Now he operates his franchise at least three times a month at Qualcomm.
Chadha suggests the following for those considering starting a business while already employed.
1. Be prepared for the unexpected. Chadha found himself needing to purchase extra supplies to meet the demand at the stadium. You never know when you'll need extra capital to fulfill orders or to take advantage of an opportunity. Sometimes, time will be the resource you need, not money. Do what you can to plan ahead, but consider saving up your vacation time in case you need it to take care of a project on the fly.
2. Find a business model that is compatible with your lifestyle. "I think one of the worst decisions potential business owners can make is to invest in a business that they are not truly passionate about," Chadha says. Since you'll spend a lot of your free time, not to mention money, growing your business, you want to choose carefully before jumping in with two feet. "Additionally, it just makes good business sense as you will be more involved and motivated to make your business succeed," he notes.
3. Tap into the Small Business Administration and other small business owner resources. Chadha suggests accessing resources via SCORE, a nonprofit business counseling association. If you're a veteran, there may be additional resources targeted to you. The SBA provides a wealth of information anyone considering owning a business would benefit from knowing.
4. Have realistic expectations. No one said owning a business is easy. Once you launch your new venture, you essentially hire yourself (at least at first) to handle everything that needs to be done. You're the IT support, chief marketer and customer service specialist. It can be difficult to effectively manage all of these roles, so you'll need to try to pace yourself until you get a firm handle on your customers and their needs and gain access to the resources you need to serve them. "Research, patience, hard work, drive and persistence will always be a business owners most valuable assets," Chadha explains. "You may not see the light at the end of the tunnel and believe me as a new business owner that is the way I sometimes feel." Your investment will eventually pay for itself if you put the time, effort and energy needed into it.
5. Have a plan with an end goal in mind. As simple as it may sound, knowing where you want to be and having a road map to get there is extremely important, Chadha says. Don't be the business owner that has a fully functioning ship in the middle of the ocean with no navigation system. Your plan should include consulting your networking contacts and making sure to extend yourself to your network as a resource at the same time that you may ask for help. When you coordinate your goals and your activities, you'll succeed much more quickly than if you try to wing it.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.