Thinking of quitting your job? Wait!
9 questions to ask yourself before you put in your papers to start your own venture
The dreadful morning commute. Pushing papers at your desk job. The long hours. The constant threat to 'shape up or ship out'. For many weary employees, sweeping smugly into the boss's office and dropping your letter of resignation onto his/her desk because you've decided to become your own boss is the stuff of office daydreams. And why wouldn't it be? The overriding message of every motivational speaker (or closer home, every other Instagram post) is to 'follow your heart' and 'pursue your dreams'.
Only you can't 'just do it', can you? There are loans to clear and bills to pay. Family members back home (wherever that is) depend on you to wire their livelihood through, faithfully, every month. In other words, the ground reality is very different. So, if you're thinking of quitting your job - wait. Don't print out that letter yet. And take it from these Dubai-based entrepreneurs who know just what it means to give up the security of a salaried employment to launch out on their own. Go ahead and take that leap of faith by all means - but before you do, there are some critical questions to ask yourself. Consider it an Entrepreneur 101 assessment test or a reality check, but you can thank us later!
(From left to right) Tahir Shah, Founder, Moti Roti; Ramzi Nakad, Co-Founder, Brag & Fashion Forward; Zaib Shadani, Managing Director, Shadani Consulting
1. Why are you doing this?
If you're going to abandon a way of life to pursue an idea, you must ask yourself why you're doing it. If it's for monetary gain or because you spotted an easy opportunity, you might do well initially - but it most likely won't last. The reason is because most entrepreneurs are people in search of a sense of purpose, a mission, derived from self-belief. This is the engine that makes us okay with things going wrong, with bad decisions, with selling our car and moving to a cheap apartment. It's what keeps us unfazed by naysayers. It's an uncompromising, unshakeable self-belief - because, in your mind, you see a goal that's crystal clear and you can do nothing but move towards it. If that's not your motivation, you may be in trouble. I think it's very important that people identify this.
- Tahir Shah, Founder, Moti Roti
2. Are you prepared for your business to become the absolute No. 1 priority in your life?
Setting up a business is not an easy undertaking. As an entrepreneur, you are involved in every aspect of the business - and that means that regular office hours no longer apply. Every minute of your day is connected to your business in some way, as you are the primary driving force behind its success or failure. Any free time that you used to have - to spend with family, friends or for socialising - will be impacted, as you will be channelling all your time and energy into building a business. Following one's passion and setting up on your own takes incredible courage and passion, but you also have to be prepared for the time commitment that it demands and the resulting shift in priorities.
- Ramzi Nakad, Co-Founder, Brag & Fashion Forward
3. Are you ready to give up the financial stability of a regular pay cheque in order to pursue your dream?
There are many financial expenditures and fees associated with setting up a new business and no guarantee of returns, so financial planning needs to be a significant part of the decision-making process. When I was setting up my PR agency, I had anticipated the cash outlay - but the reality is that you cannot anticipate all the expenses you will end up incurring. If you're not stable enough financially to support yourself for at least a year, you may want to reevaluate the decision to set up, or delay it, till you are in a stronger position.
- Zaib Shadani, Managing Director, Shadani Consulting
(From left to right) Divya Manghnani, Founder, The Wedding Script; Saygin Yalcin, CEO, Sellanycar.com; Michael Andersen, Founder, EuroTech ME
4. You have a business plan - and that's great - but is it a viable one?
If you're going to give up a full-time job for a dream, you want to make sure it's a viable, sustainable dream. Even though I knew I wanted to quit my job and work for myself, I still took six months to mentally prepare myself, do a ton of research and figure out my business plan before I put in my papers. I knew there was a definite market for a one-stop Indian wedding resource, because every single person I spoke to told me that all they had to work with for their own weddings were word-of-mouth recommendations. But despite the surety of a market, I still wasn't ready to make the jump. I made myself take time to decide. I think everyone who plans to start out on their own should too.
- Divya Manghnani, Founder, The Wedding Script
5. Does your idea solve a problem in the market?
Before any aspiring entrepreneur starts a business, he/she needs to have a solid idea that will be sure to result in a large amount of customers. After all, an impressive idea is what will grab the attention of potential investors, who can support you in the early stages of your new venture. Before putting the idea through a set of questions to assess its feasibility, one should identify a problem in the market and create a solution for it. Are you launching a product or a service that people have longed for? Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of creating a solution for a non-existent problem in the market. It's important to run a case study, or even give out questionnaires, to analyse the needs of your customers before launching your business venture.
- Saygin Yalcin, CEO, Sellanycar.com
6. Do you have an extensive network around you, and have you invested enough time in those relationships to make them strong? (You'll need them!)
When you're first getting started, it's easy to get swept along with big plans for sales and marketing and neglect the critical relationship-building. If I was doing it all over again, I would forget about advertising, Google Analytics, SEO tricks and the rest of it at the very start, and invest that time and effort into meeting up with people to grow and nurture my relationships instead. Your network is your lifeline when you are starting out and, whilst LinkedIn connections, newsletters, social media posts and ads help you to stay front of mind, nothing compares to spending one-on-one time with people, and taking them out for lunch or coffee. At the end of the day, it is the networks and people that make things happen.
- Michael Andersen, founder, EuroTech ME
(From left to right) Nikita Patel, Founder, Integreat Center for Special Needs; Amna Al Hashemi, Founder, Mitts & Trays; Tanya Azmi, Managing Partner, Fuchsia
7. Can you find the talent you need to create a successful business or organisation?
In certain organisations, you must acknowledge that you cannot do everything alone. The concept of a 'one-man show' is, often times, unfeasible and inefficient. Certain industries will require you to bring in individuals with specialised skills. The first question to ask is: do people with these skills exist in the market I wish to operate in? Additionally, it is equally important to bring together a team with character - people that embody the values and culture you wish to inculcate within your organisation. Ask yourself: do these people have the flexibility, great attitude, and tremendous drive to push my organisation forward and take it to the next level?
- Nikita Patel, Founder, Integreat Center for Special Needs
8. Can you handle the emotional stress that comes with opening your own business?
A successful business is extremely rewarding; however, starting a business is tough, tough, tough! Prepare yourself mentally before you even start working on your business plan. Be smartly positive - in that you should expect the worst... and prepare accordingly. Do not let the fear of failing stop you from pursuing your dream though.
- Amna Al Hashemi, Founder, Mitts & Trays
9. How deep do your reservoirs of 'irrational' optimism run?
I'm not going to mince words: if you're starting out on your own, you're in for a rollercoaster ride. In the beginning, learn to expect that there will be a lot more downs than ups. During those times, that daily dose of almost 'irrational' optimism is the only thing that's going to get you through the tough times. You need to believe in yourself and your start-up if you want to get it off the ground.
- Tanya Azmi, Managing Partner, Fuchsia