BEFORE YOU START…

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What are the main things you should consider before you start a business?  I am not talking about products, pricing, financing, marketing campaigns or the Internet -- I'm talking about the personal qualities of an entrepreneur that can make the difference between success and failure in any business.

I've talked to you before about entrepreneurial qualities, but here are some more tips and practical snippets of advice to help you get ahead.  You could have the best product in the world, but without your personality, drive and motivation, your business doesn't stand a chance of getting off the ground.
Do what you love

Too often, entrepreneurs start a business based on the potential to make money to the exclusion of everything else.  They start businesses not because they believe in what they are doing but because the product has a high potential profit margin.  They go forward with business projects they are not particularly interested in but take them on because they promise instant returns.

Take my advice and start a business doing something you love -- when you create a business based on your strengths, your knowledge and your passions, you have a far higher chance of success.  When you run a business it often takes hard work, commitment and often, a degree of sacrifice -- you are more likely to persist and succeed when you are doing something you love.  Don't forget also that most promises of overnight riches and success are usually hypothetical.  Almost every successful business requires sustained effort over a period of time.
Focus

There are so many opportunities available, it is very easy to become sidetracked and end up jumping at every half decent opportunity that comes along.  While it is important to keep an eye out for those golden opportunities that could really help you move forward with your business, it is equally important to remain focused and discerning.  By being a jack of all trades, you'll be a master of none -- you need to prioritise your time and concentrate on your master plan.  When you are doing something you love you are less likely to be pulled off your path than if you are simply snapping up any old opportunity to make money.

The important thing is to develop a solid plan based on your personal and business goals and stick to it.  Concentrate on achieving one step at a time and focus on the path ahead of you.  Many opportunities are not really worth the detour anyway, so settle down and concentrate on your main project until that is well established.  When you are in a position to delegate and have plenty of free time and available money, you can pursue new opportunities and create new income streams without jeopardising your original business.
Be realistic

Many new entrepreneurs have grandiose plans for their business and overly ambitious ideas about the sort of profit they expect and most of the time, this leads to failure and disappointment.  Before you start a new business, it is vital that you carry out a reality check.  Have you thoroughly researched the market and established a strong demand for your products or services?  If not, you could be heading for a fall, yet it beggars belief how so many entrepreneurs think they can get away without doing a thorough assessment of the market.

Have you considered how your business will fit in with the rest of your life?  What are you giving up in order to start your business?  Are you in it for the long haul, or are you expecting to make a fortune overnight?  You could be in for a huge disappointment if you believe that running a business is a piece of cake and that you will make millions working just a couple of hours a week.  Be realistic and don't get sucked into the hype that seems to be everywhere these days -- it can only end in disappointment.  If you lower your extravagant expectations and are prepared for some hard work, you are far more likely to succeed.
Keep to a budget

Even hugely successful businesses have to watch their cash flow.  When you start spending more than you have coming in – well, we all know the consequences of that!  You have to forget about ostentatious offices, enormous expense accounts and fast cars if you want to develop a solid, bombproof business that will become a real asset in future years.  Your aim should be to keep your overheads low, manage your cash flow effectively and to build equity and money for investment and expansion in your business.  Subsisting on overdrafts and loans to service a fancy lifestyle is a recipe for disaster, yet so many new entrepreneurs get carried away with the fantasy.  I'm not surprised that 95% of new businesses fail.  Again, it's all part of your reality check...
Be prepared

Being prepared is all about having a solid, well thought-out business plan, it's also about being prepared for the future.  Today's markets are fast-paced and ever-changing and you cannot be successful if you get left behind.  The trick is to keep up with the changes and learn to predict the trends so that you can develop your business in the right direction.  That requires a degree of personal flexibility -- you may have to be prepared to adapt your cherished ambitions for your business if you want to be successful. That also means knowing when to quit when things are not working out.

Finally, don't take it all too seriously -- remember to find the right balance between work and play and have fun!  Being your own boss and running your own business can be one of the most satisfying experiences you could ever have, so enjoy it!