One of the most frequent reasons would-be entrepreneurs give for wanting to start a business is: “I want to be the master of my own destiny!”
This desire for independence, and to a large extent for control, is a good thing. The motivation it provides is critical for the survival of the start-up during the early stages where perseverance will be a key factor. However, neither would-be entrepreneurs nor newly minted small business owners going through the early stages of their new venture should confuse independence and control with “flying solo!”
No small business operates in a vacuum. More often than not, the marketplace either already has competitors, or will soon have competitors, with whom the new entrepreneurs will have to contend. It is also very safe to assume that these competitors are not one-person operations. A business is more than the product or service it markets. A number of functional areas such as Accounting, Finance/Banking, Operations, Human Resource Management, Marketing, Design, Legal, Engineering, Risk Management, etc. have to be included in the business plan, as necessary. Granted, a start-up does not have the funding to be able to cover all of these functions through staffing but that still does not mean that the would-be entrepreneur needs to “fly solo.”
A successful venture depends on a team approach. Even if the company is small, it has to be supported by top-notch professionals who comprise the team. Not all of these will be on the payroll, but they will be paid—one way or the other. A respected accounting firm with a good track record of working with start-ups, an experienced legal advisor, a banker specializing in small business funding, small- to medium-sized marketing/advertising agencies familiar with the market are examples of these key team members.
In the very early stages of a venture, it is important to select team members who understand and fully support the business. These seasoned professionals serve not only as key players of the venture but also as a sounding board to the founders of the enterprise. Funders value the judgment of these key professionals just as much as the would-be entrepreneur, if not more.
This brings us to a second aspect of the “flying solo” myth. I over thirty years of working with entrepreneurs, I have yet to come across a new venture whose owner can honestly say that they are “masters of their own destiny!” All would-be entrepreneurs and owners of new start-ups will, sooner or later, come to the realization that, the number of outsiders who control their, and their venture’s destiny frequently exceeds the number of fingers on their two hands.
In the early stages of a venture, funders, government agencies, customers, competitors, even family members will exert more pressure on the founder of the business than any boss they ever might have had in their previous professional endeavors. In some ways, the pressures exerted by an employer are easier to deal with, or even walk away from, than those the entrepreneur will face during the early stages of a start-up. But perseverance will soon lead to patience, and patience will lead to wisdom. In time this wisdom will bring the entrepreneur the much-desired control.
Till then, all I can say is: “Keep the faith and stay the course! It is well worth the sacrifices….”
Dr. Memo Diriker is the Director of the Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) of the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University and the President-Elect of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce. BEACON is home to the award winning Community Visioning, ShoreTRENDS, GraySHORE, ShoreENERGY, Explore the SHORE, and “Bienvenidos a Delmarva” initiatives. BEACON is also a founding partner of the GeoDASH and GNAppWorks initiatives.