June 17, 2008

3 Min Read
Which Type of Business Should You Start?

By Mitch York 1

The single most important success factor for entrepreneurs is choosing the right business. Many entrepreneurs make their choice based on what they have done successfully in the past or what they are naturally good at. Those are important considerations but there’s one thing that’s much more critical.

You need to decide the lifestyle you want. I know: how un-American! We’re supposed to pick a business by the scale of the opportunity, the size of the payoff, the hockey-stick curve of the spreadsheet, the number of toys!

Try putting lifestyle first as a filter for possibilities you will consider. Say you love the excitement of a retail environment, and you also love gourmet coffee. So, perhaps you want to open a café. Except….the hours are 6 am to 10 pm weekdays and 6 am to midnight weekends. Are you up for that lifestyle? You think you’ll hire a manager to work the non-lifestyle hours? Nah. You gotta make the donuts! You won’t manage yourself out of the underlying lifestyle, not for a few years, if all goes well.

Another example: you are a superstar salesman but got fed up with all the travel so you left your corporate job. You’re thinking of launching your own media rep firm. Wait a sec! Didn’t like travel then? It’s going to be worse now, because you’re paying. No more favorite airline. (Does anyone still have a favorite airline? Not to mention the only flying perk left is a free can of soda and a big helping of attitude from your flight attendant.) If you really were sick of business travel, no matter how many clients you might have on Day One of your new startup, you are getting into the wrong business.

How do you identify lifestyle considerations first? Honestly answer these questions for yourself and then use your responses as an absolute, totally fortified boundary for what you will or won’t do:

  1. How many hours a week do I want to work?

  2. What kind of people (customers, employees, co-workers) do I want/not want to have around me all day?

  3. Do I want to travel for business and if so, how much?

  4. What are five family events I missed because of a current or previous job that I will make a commitment not to miss again? And how will I choose a business that ensures this?

  5. What kind of person am I?

On the last point, it’s a good idea to take an assessment test like DISC or Myers-Briggs. They are inexpensive and interesting. I’ve taken DISC many times and my independence score comes up aberrantly high every time—which means I have a big problem with authority, as most of my former employers will attest. It helps to know yourself and seek out business opportunities that fit well into your personality type. For example, if you’re super-independent, franchises may be a bad idea because you may have trouble following a system–and that’s what you are buying with a franchise.

Have I missed important questions to ask yourself to figure out the right business for you? Do tell!

Contributing blogger Mitch York is a personal friend of The VAR Guy. York coaches executives who are evolving into entrepreneurs. Find York — and his personal blog — at www.e2ecoaching.com.

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