I think all of us have wanted to start our own businesses at one point or the other, maybe with a revolutionary new product idea or a new business model innovation. But as easy as it is to dream about becoming the next Zuckerberg, an impending question always occupies our minds- when is the right time? In this article, we will try to figure out if the time is ripe.
What skills help with being an entrepreneur?
When it comes to starting your business, having passion isn’t enough. You need to learn to think strategically, find out everything about the market, work out the legal nitty-gritty affairs, deconstruct a problem to its core and find disruptive solutions. Alongside, you need to have a very strong work ethic and leadership style, to turn these good ideas into thriving businesses.
According to Ahmed Faiz, co-founder of Chillox, “ Business is all about sales, so it helps to have sales skills, so you can plan your production, quality control, and know when to expand or scale up. Having basic financial knowledge is important too. You can always hire someone to do these things, but basic knowledge is crucial.”
Mohammad Oli Ahad, founder and CEO of Intelligent Machines, says, “A lot of skills help—but, most of all, how resilient you are and how well your coping mechanisms are – these matter the most, if you ask me. The problem you’re trying to tackle, how good and personally do you know about it? How serious are you about solving it? Say, if you ever worked in a group where you disagreed with most of the members, maybe even all of them, what did you do? These experiences matter as well.”
Should I work before becoming an entrepreneur?
Having a job can be invaluable for building up contacts and polishing skills you can use to start your own business. Working jobs such as management or business development can hone your ability to identify opportunities and teach you how to grow and manage businesses.
Ahmed Faiz said, “It all depends on the context; relevant experience helps of course. My team’s experience in sales & trade marketing helped us a lot when we were trying to negotiate the procurement of raw materials. I suggest starting out with your idea on a part-time basis while still in university, to get a good understanding of the business environment.”
According to Ifteker Mahmud, co-founder and managing director of Purplebot Digital, “It depends on what business you’re starting. For my case, my experience of working at event management companies, PR agencies, production companies and advertising agencies helped. I got a glimpse of the broader industry before I entered it. But generally speaking, any job or experience that requires you to harness soft-skills like management and communication, might contribute to your entrepreneurial journey.”
It’s true that with a job, you often get designated to just a role, and maybe don’t get to see other parts of the business. Often with bigger companies, you’re trapped within set ways of doing business that might not seem helpful for an aspiring entrepreneur. However, these do expose you to a lot of business practices, and if nothing at all, these teach you about the real-life work scenarios.
Muhammad Oli Ahad, who had several years of experience at BATB before launching his business, said, “In my case, my corporate experiences helped me a lot. Seeing strong leaders in action during crisis and solid processes in place, watching how large and complex projects are managed, working in virtual/remote teams with representatives from 25 countries for months and months really helped. I’m wholly indebted to my experiences and all the people who have shaped those.”
But even when you don’t have any work experience, it’s important that your startup’s core team has cross-functional skills. Ahmed Faiz adds, “If one person has the technical ideas, another needs to have the business acumen to handle operations or sales. I’ve seen a lot of start-ups fall apart because they couldn’t retain their core team or didn’t have a cross-functional one.”
When is the right time to be an entrepreneur?
Regardless of work experience, there still remains the question, when should you take the big leap? It comes down to your personality, whether you’re able to handle stress, motivate yourself to take the load and have the managerial skills needed to make tough decisions and handle people. It also depends on your financial situation. Can you handle the financial risk, and do you have the means to raise capital to finance your business?
Summing it all up, Oli Ahad says, “It’s always and never. And, that’s just true. The question is whether you are ready and whether your product’s market-timing is right.”
Tashfia Mamun is a business student and an avid dog lover. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org