Startup Advisories

When should you be an entrepreneur and when not to

Planning to give up that cushy paid job and get jump into the exciting life of an entrepreneur? Here are some guiding points that you might like to think about before even taking the plunge.

Business areas

  1. Ensure you have done sufficient marketing to understand the pain point of the market you are trying to resolve. It has to be a big pain point that is worth solving. I often get people presenting me an idea they thought about but it doesn’t address the market problem, or even if there is an issue, it is very small to be feasible.
  2. Who are the existing competitors / solutions at hand? And what is your unique selling point that others cannot compete on? Always see how the other solutions are being offered and how you can better in the offer.
  3. What skillsets can you contribute to the business and what are you lacking? Be realistic that you cannot do all the skills and will need good partners to help you. List down the skills you lack and do a good search for people who can help fill that in. Only invite those with the critical skills and core functions to be your partners. Read my other article on TIA about “Start right with your business partners – the pre-nuptial way”.

Personal areas

  1. Store up at least 6-12 months worth of savings. When doing a startup, it is already very stressful to handle the aspects of the business. You don’t wish to also be worrying about your own personal finances and not able to feed yourself. This will distract you from doing your best in the business. A general rule of thumb is that don’t expect the business to pay you money during the first 6-12 months, hence the need to have savings to cover that period of no salary.
  2. Get your blessings from your family and future/current partner. Entrepreneurship is a highly risky venture. There is no security in having a monthly salary. If you are still single, ensure that you get the support from your parents. They need to understand and to back you when the going gets tough. It is also important to get approval from your other significant half. If you are still single and on the way to marriage, do share first with your future partner on the plans of entrepreneurship. Set a timeline and agree to stick to it and allow your partner to emotionally support you. If you are already married and have a family, it is also good to consider first the needs and gain the support of your family before taking on this journey.

When not to be an entrepreneur

In these considerations, there are also some clear indicators that you should not be an entrepreneur:

  1. Entrepreneurship is not about having free and flexible timing. Yes, you may hate your 9-6 job because you don’t get the freedom to get out of bed later than usual, or to run errands in the middle of the day. But that’s not the reason you should jump into entrepreneurship.
  2. Entrepreneurship looks sexy and exciting. It sounds sexy because of all the media attention, but in reality it is not. It is about hard work and sacrifice and it doesn’t mean you will get the rewards. It is highly stressful and not for the faint hearted.
  3. It is not a step-up in your career. You are earning a decent sum now say US$5k a month and you think you will earn US$10k by doing your own business. Maybe… but only in industries of specialised skills, like advertising and creative agencies, restauranteurs, medical doctors, etc. That is when you have been established as a brand and you yourself carry value. But if you are in a general work job and want to start your own business to jump up your career, think again.

The writer is director of Angels Gate Advisory, a pro-bono incubator that supports Singapore entrepreneurship.

This article is the seventh of the ‘Startup Advisory Clinic’ Series.

This article first appeared on Tech in Asia.