Forbes Coaches Council
If you want to own a business, you’d be surprised what you can learn from your high-school self.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was far from a model student, but I stood there in shock when I read my senior superlative in the yearbook: “Least Likely to Succeed.” Looking back at it, I have to laugh. There is zero chance that superlative would make it into yearbooks in today’s everyone-gets-a-trophy world.
But receiving this label has driven me every day since. I decided that instead of just making a living, I was going to make a difference. And in doing so, I would silence the doubters.
Here’s what’s fascinating for anyone considering opening their own business. It may seem like a million years ago, but perhaps your high-school self can teach you something. Your high-school self wasn’t jaded. Back then, you were fearless and thought anything was possible, even if it seemed impractical or illogical. So, if you want to go forward, it may be time to look backward — back to who you used to be in high school. Looking back to the spirit of your younger self may just provide the jolt you need to make the transition into entrepreneurship.
Trust me on this. It’s how I had the confidence to start my $14 million-a-year company. Not that it has been an overnight success. I started my company in 1984 and began franchising in 1997. But I wouldn’t have the company I have today if my 36-year-old self, dazed after a bankruptcy and divorce, and with three kids to support, hadn’t asked my high-school self for guidance and motivation.
I had been a serial entrepreneur until that rock-bottom moment. Since I was a kid, I had always been interested in running my own business. And when I did have a talk with my younger self — OK, not a literal talk — I started thinking back to my high school days, and I suddenly had a newfound clarity. I remembered that senior superlative and realized that much earlier on, when I was starting out, I had always been looking for mentors who could offer advice on starting a business.
Maybe back in 1984 I was a little crazy to start a franchise coaching business. I was, after all, coming off a few hardships. And compared to what I know now, part of me wonders what I was thinking. But fortunately, I listened to that inner high school student, and I didn’t worry that maybe I wasn’t ready to start my business. I didn’t decide that starting the business wasn’t practical. I just did it.
You can, too.
I’m not saying starting your own business is easy. It isn’t. But if you’re looking for guidance and ideas on how to start your own company, there are several strategies you’ll want to start working on.
• Do your research. That is, if you have an idea for your business, do you have any evidence that the market needs another restaurant, daycare, accounting firm or whatever business you’re considering starting? You may want to consult your community’s chamber of commerce or the U. S. Small Business Administration (there is probably a local office near you). Even if you’re determined to open up a business in an extremely competitive market, you’ll want to know what you’re getting yourself into.
• Talk to people you respect. That may be your spouse, your best friend, your attorney or accountant, a pastor, a career coach or maybe a friend or acquaintance who is a business owner. But once you have an idea for a business, you shouldn’t attempt this alone, not without first soliciting opinions and advice from people you respect. They may see problems — or solutions — with the business you’re starting.
• Develop a business plan. This is extremely important, especially if your company is completely new and untested (although even individual franchise owners need business plans that are in sync with the goals of the specific national franchise). You want to have a blueprint for becoming and staying profitable, and any lenders or investors you work with will want to see that as well.
Disheartened by everything you need to do? I hope not. In fact, I hope you’re energized by the idea of being your own employer. This is an exciting step you’re going to take.
Bottom line: Before you found yourself working for a hotheaded boss, before you were overwhelmed by student loans, car payments and utility bills, and before you realized how hard being an adult can be, you were YOU. And I’m guessing you weren’t discouraged and that you thought the future was bright and that anything was possible.
It is bright. What we forget as adults is that, despite leaving school, we never stop learning. There is a business out there for you, one that’s an ideal match for your goals, needs, expectations, experience and interests. You just have to figure out which business is the perfect fit for you.
So, maybe you don’t know what you want to do now that you’re all grown up. But I’ll bet your younger self knows — especially if you received a less-than-stellar senior superlative!