9 Questions To Ask Before Starting A Business

Had an informational interview with an IUPUI student this week. He was back in school and looking to start his own business when he "got out". He was interviewing different business owners, trying to get the lay of the land, see if he was cut out for it. I started saying a bunch of stuff and forgot to say some other stuff. So I thought I'd collect this into a blog if for no other reason than to have a better answer next time I'm asked. 

If you can answer yes to all of these questions then I think you are ready to start your own business. Of course I couldn't answer yes to most of these when I started my first, or even second business, so don't let me get in your way! These are things that I struggle with continually. Keep in mind that these questions aren't focused on your business model but on your disposition to run a business.

1. Can you have hard conversations? By this I mean- can you tell your business partner that you think they aren't carrying their weight? Can you tell a client they need to pay you more money? Can you fire someone?

2. Can you manage expectations? Do you have a habit of over-promising and under-delivering? Do you do what you say? 

3. Can you walk away? From a deal, from a partnership, from your own company- whatever thing that needs to be left behind in order to grow. You must always be willing to put everything on the table, go all in.

4. Can you delegate? Are you willing to let others fail even when it makes you look bad? Are you willing to give people time to grow? Can you suppress your control freak instincts?

5. Can you handle stress? Starting a business is exciting but also extremely stressful. Can your marriage/relationship handle cash flow issues? Can your health handle it?

6. Can you be honest with yourself? Do you tell yourself lies about the business? Sales leads, investment, staff issues, etc. Most business problems stem from good people lying to themselves about their business. That leads to them lying to everyone else which creates a real mess. Optimism is an effective fuel but reality always wins. 

7. Are you willing to do whatever it takes? Change your business model, change your name, scrap an internal project that you worked on for a year, work 80 hour weeks when needed to get things done.

8. Do you have a high risk tolerance? Chances are you will have to take risks running a company that were unthinkable as an employee. A high tolerance for risk is needed to start, and run, a successful business. If you have a low risk tolerance then maybe you are best off as an employee. 

9. Can you let your ego take a back seat? Many business owners can answer yes to the questions above but their oversized ego limits their potential. They can't take critical feedback from their team or customers, they only like their own ideas, they have trouble sharing the spotlight. It's hard to walk the line between confidence and ego, something I struggle with regularly.

Any other questions that I missed?