Q: I'm thinking about starting a business since that seems to be how most rich people get rich. I don't have any business experience or much money, but I'm a fast learner and have lots of energy. Any free advice?
A: I'm full of free advice, Pete, and here's your dose of complimentary wisdom: don't quit your day job. No offense my energetic friend, but to consider starting a business with no experience and no money is a little like playing football with no playbook or pads. Your various body parts will be pounded into the ground by better-equipped players and you will lose the game.
Now let's address your other point concerning rich people who got that way in business. Anyone who thinks that going into business is the key to riches needs to hear the story of the boy who asked the rich old man how he made his money.
The old millionaire fingered his Rolex watch and said, "Well, son, it was 1932: the depth of the Great Depression. I was down to my last nickel. I invested that nickel in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold it for ten cents.
"The next morning, I invested those ten cents in two apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and sold them later for 20 cents. I continued this system for several years and soon I had a thriving apple business."
"And that's how you got rich?" the boy asked. "In your own apple business?"
"Oh, heavens, no!" the old man replied. "I lost my shirt in the apple business, but a few years later my wife's father died and left us ten million dollars..."
Moral of the story, Pete: you'd be better off finding a nice girl with a sickly, rich daddy than to count on starting a business that will make you rich. Of course finding a nice girl with a sickly, rich daddy is easier said than done (trust me on this one), but one can always hope.
That's certainly not to say that you can't get make a great deal of money in your own business or even get so filthy rich that wide-eyed youngsters beg you to tell them stories of how you built your fortunes. But most people who start a business do not get rich. To the contrary, most make so little money that they decide that going into business was not such a great idea after all and then run screaming back to the security of the job they once could not wait to leave.
While it is true that more millionaires got that way from their own business ventures than through any other means, to summarily assume that starting your own business puts you on the road to riches is foolhardy. Many entrepreneurs build solid businesses that provide a very comfortable living and many others do indeed get rich. Others simply find out that they have traded one job for another and still others discover that business really wasn't for them.
What should you really consider before starting a business? Asking yourself the following questions will help you make a wise decision.
Are you really cut out to be an entrepreneur?
This is the first question you must ask yourself because the grass on the other side of the entrepreneurial fence is not always greener (despite all the entremanure).
Do you have a burning desire to own your own business? Do you have the initiative to get out of bed in the morning and be your own boss? Do you have the energy to work around the clock? Can you persevere in the face of adversity? Can you turn problems into opportunities? Can you work alone without support? Can you get used to the idea of life without a steady paycheck? Are you passionate about your product or service? Are you prepared to run the company, do the books, sweep the floors, empty the garbage, and do whatever it takes to make the business a success? If not, you're not cut out to be an entrepreneur. Learn to love your cubicle.
Do you really have a "great idea?"
The key phrase here is "great idea." All businesses - those that make their owners millionaires and those that make their owners paupers - start with an idea. The problems begin when that great idea turns to mush. Share your idea with others and ask for honest feedback. You might find that great idea is not so great, after all.
Is the timing right?
Is this a good time for you to start a business? Maybe you've just retired or left a job and have the time to devote to a business. Or maybe a rich uncle left you a bundle and you are now financially sound enough to venture out on your own. If the timing is not right, don't start a business.
How's your personal life?
Money and timing aside, your personal situation should be the deciding factor on whether or not you start your own business. Is your health good? Is your family supportive? Are you willing to sacrifice current lifestyle for long term success?
How well do you handle failure?
Since the vast majority of businesses fail within the first 5 years this is the most important question you must ask yourself. No venture is foolproof. Even with a rich relative (alive or dead) no business success is guaranteed. If the business does go belly up, can you still land on your feet? If not, RUN!
So Pete, there's your free advice. Good luck finding a rich father-in-law.
Small Business Q&A is written by veteran entrepreneur
and syndicated columnist, Tim Knox.
Tim's latest books include "Small Business Success Secrets"
and "The 30 Day Blueprint For Success!"