Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Audra Upchurch who inspires career women to embrace their authenticity and thrive in their personal lives. She is also the owner of Xpress Mail that provides packing, shipping, printing and business services. For more info: www.xpressmbs.com.
SmallBizLady: Audra, I want to start a business but can’t afford to quit my job. Where do I begin?
AuthenticAudra: Start with something you’re good at and passionate about. If you’re working a full-time job that you’re already not happy with, no need to do the same with your business. Do something that excites you! That’s going to motivate you when you’re tired at 2am and working on a customer deadline. Also, make sure there is a need in the market for your business idea before you jump in; but most importantly, sit down and discuss it with your family.
SmallBizLady: Should I inform my boss that I am starting my own business
AuthenticAudra: You’ll want to review your employee handbook and policies to confirm if it is a requirement or if there is a non-compete clause. Also, consider your relationship with your boss. If you think your boss will feel like you’re hiding something then you may want to share it.
SmallBizLady: What if my boss is uncomfortable with the idea of me starting a business? I still need a paycheck.
AuthenticAudra: Have a candid conversation with your boss. Share your schedule and ensure him that you are not working on company time. Your boss may not be aware of the automation and outsourcing options available and that your business can run efficiently while you are at work.
SmallBizLady: Will my family and friends support me?
AuthenticAudra: They may, but don’t count on it. Your vision of entrepreneurship is your own. Family and friends mean well but if you are truly building a business, and not a hobby, you must build a customer base to sustain your business. If your idea is solid, there are customers out there, but you must do the work to find them.
SmallBizLady: Where do I find customers?
AuthenticAudra: Networking is the easy answer but it’s so true! Develop a blueprint of your target customer (their likes, dislikes, habits, etc.) and network in those key areas. Also, partner with another small business to pool resources so you won’t have to take so much time away from work. You’ll also want to register at sam.gov (System for Award Management) for possible federal contracts, depending on your products and services. Also, register with your state and local procurement offices as many of the contracts have small business requirements.
SmallBizLady: What should I do to prepare?
AuthenticAudra: Your business will require time, attention and focus to be successful. After giving your job 8 hours of your day, you’ll still have family obligations so your time will be tight. Sit down and assess what items you can remove from your schedule. Everything should be on the table from tv time to chores. Discuss the schedule with your family to see who can pick up the slack.
SmallBizLady: How do I get my family’s buy-in on my new schedule? They feel like they are being neglected.
AuthenticAudra: I have 3 tips for getting their buy in; 1- be consistent in your business. If you’ve scheduled to work 4 nights a week in your business then work 4 nights a week. No going to shoot pool instead of contacting customers. 2- show up for them when you say you’re going to show up. If it’s family night don’t keep your family waiting while you finish up a conference call. 3 – let them in on your end game. Let them know this is not forever and that you have a plan. Set an actual date, even if it’s years out.
SmallBizLady: What if I can’t do it all?
AuthenticAudra: You can’t. No one expects you to. Along with leveraging other small businesses, don’t be afraid to outsource. In this dual role, your time should be spent on the revenue producing activities. Administrative, financial and ever marketing actions can be outsourced so your time is well spent. Automation is your friend. Schedule social media posts and invest in a good customer relationship management tool (CRM) that will work while you sleep. In fact, utilize your spouse and kids to help with stuffing envelopes, sending emails or scheduling your social media posts so that they feel involved and save money on outsourcing those tasks.
SmallBizLady: How should I pay myself?
AuthenticAudra: You don’t. You should be reinvesting in your business until you are generating a profit. Generally speaking, profit is what’s left after expenses. Since you have the benefit of your full-time job to cover your household bills, it would be wise to reinvest in your business to expedite growth if your intention is to quit your job one day. For the time being, your job is funding your business.
SmallBizLady: I have years of experience in my field, should I still invest in a coach?
AuthenticAudra: Working for a business and running a business are two completely different animals. Although you may have the technical expertise, you still need someone to show you how to set up your business systems, marketing, forecasting, etc. A coach can help you do that and avoid costly mistakes that your small business cannot afford to make in its infancy.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz