Decisions and Downfalls
Entrepreneurship is an attractive career choice, but decision making is a must
(The following one-page essay is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Principles of Entrepreneurship.)
Decisions and Downfalls
Entrepreneurship is an attractive career choice. But many decisions have to be made before launching and managing a new business, no matter its size. Among the questions that need to be answered are:
• Does the individual truly want to be responsible for a business?
• What product or service should be the basis of the business?
• What is the market, and where should it be located?
• Is the potential of the business enough to provide a living wage for its employees and the owner?
• How can a person raise the capital to get started?
• Should an individual work full or part time to start a new business? Should the person start alone or with partners?
Answers to these questions are not empirically right or wrong. Rather, the answers will be based on each entrepreneur's judgment. An entrepreneur gathers as much information and advice as possible before making these and other crucial decisions.
The entrepreneur's challenge is to balance decisiveness with caution – to be a person of action who does not procrastinate before seizing an opportunity – and at the same time, to be ready for an opportunity by having done all the preparatory work possible to reduce the risks of the new endeavor.
Preparatory work includes evaluating the market opportunity, developing the product or service, preparing a good business plan, figuring out how much capital is needed, and making arrangements to obtain that capital.
Through careful analysis of entrepreneurs' successes and failures, economists have identified key factors for up-and-coming business owners to consider closely. Taking them into account can reduce risk. In contrast, paying them no attention can precipitate the downfall of a new enterprise.
Motivation: What is the incentive for starting a business? Is it money alone? True, many entrepreneurs achieve great wealth. However, money is almost always tight in the startup and early phases of a new business. Many entrepreneurs do not even take a salary until they can do so and still leave the firm with a positive cash flow.
Strategy: What is the strategy for distinguishing the product or service? Is the plan to compete solely on the basis of selling price? Price is important, but most economists agree that it is extremely risky to compete on price alone. Large firms that produce huge quantities have the advantage in lowering costs.
Realistic Vision: Is there a realistic vision of the enterprise's potential? Insufficient operating funds are the cause of many failed businesses. Entrepreneurs often underestimate start-up costs and overestimate sales revenues in their business plans. Some analysts advise adding 50 percent to final cost estimates and reducing sales projections. Only then can the entrepreneur examine cash flow projections and decide if he or she is ready to launch a new business.
[Author Jeanne Holden is a free-lance writer with expertise in economic issues. She worked as a writer-editor in the U.S. Information Agency for 17 years.]