Starting a business is exciting and nerve-wracking. It will be one of the biggest investments you'll make during your lifetime. Not just financially, but emotionally as well. Doing it right will mean taking on a lot of responsibilities and making a lot of sacrifices. It will also mean working harder than you ever have before.
For these reasons, business ownership is not for everyone. If you don't have the right skills, personality, and commitment to operate a business, you'll be in trouble before you make your first sale. So before you begin planning your E-Commerce business, you need to take a hard look at yourself, your family, and your finances, and give honest answers to some very important questions.
The following questions will help you weigh your personal characteristics and beliefs against the realities of business ownership. Don't worry if you find that a few of the questions reveal doubts or weaknesses. Nobody's a perfect match for any profession. But if you find many of the questions troubling, you may want to rethink your decision to go into business.
1) Are you willing to accept the responsibility of operating your own business ?
Forget the tidy little set of responsibilities that came with a position in corporate life. When you run a business, you're in charge of everything—from opening the doors in the morning to cleaning up at night. Then when you go home, you worry.
The hours are long, there's a high degree of stress, and there's always too much to do and not enough time to do it. You'll have to deal with your customers and your employees. You'll be responsible for the finances of the business and dealing with taxes. And you'll need to fill out a lot of forms and sign a lot of checks.
Make sure you understand what you're getting into. As a business owner, you'll have more responsibilities than you've ever had before, no matter what your previous jobs have been. If you understand this simple fact, you'll be ready to take your responsibilities on.
2) Are you comfortable making hard decisions ?
As the owner of a business, you'll also have to make many decisions that affect the business, your livelihood, and that of your employees. Many times they may be tough to make, including the decision to lay people off if your business falls on hard times. It will require decisiveness, mental toughness, and resolve. If you have trouble when faced with tough choices, this could be a problem area.
Do you think owning your own business is the way to easy money ?
Think again. Many people actually end up sacrificing income to open their businesses, at least at first. That's the price they're willing to pay for independence.
If you're thinking of giving up a promising career and a lucrative income to start your business, be realistic about what your financial needs are and whether or not the business will meet those needs. Remember, you're building a business.
It may take you a number of years to get to the income level you want or need. On the other hand, you may decide that you're willing to sacrifice some money for the reward of being your own boss. Many people have found it to be worth every penny.
3) Are you starting a business out of desperation N?
This is a very real concern, particularly in light of the huge number of experienced businessmen and businesswomen who have been cast adrift in the job market through corporate downsizing in recent years. If you're one of these people and are thinking about starting a business because you think it's your only option, be very careful. Yes, it can be the answer to your future security, but only if you're willing to make the necessary commitments and sacrifices. The world of business ownership is vastly different from the corporate world. Make sure you recognize the differences before you make the move.
4) Are you well organized ?
The day-to-day operation of your business is going to require you to assume many responsibilities. Let's consider an average day. You may need to do the payroll, talk to suppliers, pay a few bills, work on a new advertising pamphlet, and prepare some tax forms. At the same time you'll be filling orders and making sure they get sent out on time. Then there's always the unexpected—your computer bombs or the air-conditioning conks out.
As a business owner, you'll need to keep many balls in the air at one time. Your ability to juggle all these responsibilities will directly affect your success. If you're well organized, you'll have a list of the things you need to do, and you'll methodically go through it during the course of the day. If you're interrupted, you'll pick up where you left off after you've dealt with the problem. If you're still not through at the end of the day, you'll sit there and work until you've finished. Procrastinators do not do well in business. If you get behind, you're sunk.
5) Are you creative ?
It's an asset to any business. No matter how great your product, you're not going to be the only one selling it. Marketing and advertising are critical to getting customers' attention and encouraging them to buy. If you have a creative streak—whether it be copy writing, graphic design, or even an offbeat sense of humor—it will be an invaluable asset to your business.
T his is doubly true in E-Commerce . Since your customers can't see the items they're purchasing "in the flesh," so to speak, they need to be enticed by the visual presentation and written description in your promotional materials.
6) Are you flexible ?
In business, if an idea or plan doesn't work, you can't let yourself waste time, energy, and emotion bemoaning its failure. You need to quickly come up with an alternative solution. Flexibility and adaptability are the key. You'll need to stay focused to achieve your goal, but you may need to try several different paths to get there.
In E-Commerce order, for example, one marketing approach may work for a while and then stall. At that point you'll need to come up with something new. Remember, every business plan and every business
can benefit from a fresh look every once in a while, even when things seem to be going along just fine.
7) Are you goal orientated ?
This trait is obviously helpful in all parts of life, but it's particularly helpful in business. As a business owner, your goals will be defined in very simple, concrete terms—gross sales and net profit.
A good businessperson approaches each year with new goals and uses them as motivating forces throughout the year. Let's say gross sales for your first year of operation were $500,000 and your net profit was $ 100,000. For the following year, you might set as your goal a 20 percent increase, or $ 600,000 and $ 120,000. Achieving or surpassing those figures will drive you day after day.
Goal-oriented people also plan for the future. Eventually, you may want to expand your product selection and your target market. You'll have a long-term plan that includes the timing of your expansion and what every aspect of your business will do to accommodate increased volume.
8) Are you an optimist ?
Having the right mental attitude is important for every aspect of life. When you run into hard times, keeping an upbeat attitude and looking for the positive side of things is critical to riding out the storm.
This is particularly true in business. By nature, it's a trip with peaks and valleys. For instance, the hardest time for any business is the first year or two. You may spend months getting things ready to go, carefully selecting the merchandise you'll carry, and getting your advertising strategy together. Then you'll send out your first e-mailing and wait anxiously for the phone to begin ringing off the hook and your email box to be jammed with orders.
But nothing happens. Maybe a few orders trickle in, or you get some phone calls with questions about certain items. This isn't unusual, but even knowing that, you'll still worry. If you're the type of person who gets down when things don't quite go the way you'd like, you might have trouble with the roller coaster ride that any business will take you on. Keeping a positive mental attitude is essential to weathering the bad times and working hard to make the good ones arrive that much sooner.
9 ) Have you any experience you can use in running the business ?
If you have, it will make learning the business a lot easier. Experience in sales, accounting, advertising, marketing, personnel management, taxes, or any other business-related responsibility is a definite plus for a potential business owner.
Experience with computers is mandatory since in E-Commerce of course computers are your lifeblood .
You have to have hands on experience with computers both hardware and software and not be intimidated by computer experts and geeks but rather be able to work with these often eccentric individuals who command often unique skills.
10 ) Do you enjoy working with people ?
One of the painful realities of being in retail is the fact that the customer is always right. Granted, running a E-Commerce business distances you from your customers in the sense that there's rarely face-to-face contact. But that doesn't mean you don't owe them the same service and courtesy you would if they were standing right in front of you.
As an E-Commerce retailer, you'll have the same problems with customers that storefront retailers experience. You'll have complaints about your merchandise, your prices, your service, your policies, and your employees. Believe me, no matter how well you think you have things organized, someone will find fault with them.
This is where tact, patience, and understanding come in. When a customer is unhappy, you must put up with their behavior and try to amend the situation. The last thing your business needs is a bad reputation. If you allow a customer to go away unsatisfied, you can be sure the person will tell all their friends how terrible you are. That, in turn, will keep a lot of potential customers from becoming regular customers.
So there will be times when you'll have to bite the bullet and make amends quickly and courteously when you'd really like to tell the customer to take a hike. Because you're dealing with someone who may be halfway across the country, it may take a personal phone call, an overnight special delivery, or a refund with a handwritten note saying you're sorry the purchase didn't work out but you look forward to helping them in the future. Just make sure you leave the customer happy. .You'll also have to deal with the people who work for you. As the owner of a business, your behavior will set the standard for your employees' behavior. If you're negative and critical, they'll be negative and critical. But if you're cheerful and upbeat, that will also be reflected in their behavior.
You'll have to be tough at times. Managing people isn't easy. If you're lucky, most of your employees will be pleasant, will work hard, and will contribute positively to the business. But you'll also have a few who will turn out to be unpleasant, lazy, incompetent, or even dishonest. Motivating them will be a challenge. If you can't change their behavior, you have to be able to fire them.
11) Are you comfortable dealing with money ?
Some people are terribly inept at finances. Others can do it but hate it. Like it or not, financial management is an inescapable fact of business ownership. You'll be dealing with complex monetary issues, from financing the business to handling the day-to-day receipts. You'll be responsible for paying the bills, making the bank deposits, doing the payroll, and sending in withholding taxes and quarterly reports to the IRS and the state. You may be handling substantial amounts of cash, and there are certain risks inherent in that responsibility.
You'll also be making business plans. These are detailed projections of your income and expenses for a given period of time, usually three months, six months, or a year. In some ways, they're quite simple—you want to maximize your income and minimize your expenses. But they take careful planning and budgeting. What are the minimum staffing expenses going to be to operate the business? What will your overhead and utilities be? How much money can you spend on advertising? When are the taxes due? How will you determine the price of your products? What will you charge for shipping and handling?
Any financial experience you may have had will help you with this aspect of your business. And if you like this type of activity, it will be to your advantage. But if you find it burdensome, you'll have to be ready to deal with it.
12 ) Are you financially prepared to open a business ?
Starting any business requires money. The nice thing about E-Commerce is that you can make it about as bare-bones as you care to, particularly if you're starting a small operation that you'll operate in your spare time. Many people have started E-Commerce businesses for just a relatively small amount of capital .
But the bigger your dreams, the more money you're going to need. If you're planning a full-time E-Commerce business with numerous products, the start-up costs will be considerably higher. Then a whole new batch of considerations comes into play. Do you have the financial reserves to support you and your family for a period of time until business picks up? Some business advisers say you should have enough on hand to survive for a year with no income whatsoever. While that may be an unrealistic goal, you do need to consider what happens if the business fails altogether. Do you have the resources to weather such a catastrophe?
Before you begin planning your business, you need to take a careful look at your finances. How much of your available capital are you willing to risk? Are you willing to personally sign for a business loan? What do you have to offer as collateral? How much cash will you have in reserve for emergencies? If you don't have enough to start the business yourself, are you willing to take on a partner or partners? Are you staking your entire financial future on the business?
Under capitalization is the main cause of failure for small businesses in the United States. Yet many people, caught up in the entrepreneurial fever, continue to start businesses on a shoestring, woefully unprepared to deal with the bad times. If you can't start your business with a comfortable financial cushion beneath you, you may be taking a risk you can't afford.
13 ) Is your family ready to make the commitment
Whether your family is actively involved in the business or not, business ownership is going to have a huge effect on them. If you're the only one involved in its day-to-day operation, the rest of the family isn't going to see you very much. If they're used to having you around on evenings and weekends, this may cause problems.
Your spouse may be unhappy having less time to go out to dinner or the movies. Your absence may also mean he or she is going to have to assume a lot more responsibility at home— chauffeuring the kids here and there, helping with homework, doing the shopping, cooking the meals, cleaning the house, paying the bills, and all the other odds and ends that are part of day-to-day life.
Your kids may have to make some big adjustments, too. You might not be available for Little League games, dance recitals, school plays, and all the other events of childhood.
There may also be some financial adjustments for your family. If you're like most fledgling business owners, you'll be running a tight ship for a few years. Your family will have to realize there might not be money for some of the luxuries they used to take for granted.
It's extremely important to think about potential family problems early in the process. Sit everyone down together and tell them what you're thinking of doing. Make sure they know what it will mean to the family's day-to-day routine and find out how they feel about it. Their support will make your life a lot easier. You're going to have enough stress just handling the business. The last thing you'll need is a family crisis.
The other side of the coin is having your family members working in the business with you. The dynamics of family businesses can be quite volatile, and you'll want to make sure everyone can get along. A major question will be, Who's the boss? Are the lines of authority clearly drawn? Are you and your spouse going to be equals in ownership and operation of the business? If so, are you able to work together cheerfully and consider each other's opinions? If you are, you'll probably have no problem running the company together. But if you can't even agree on what kind of soap to use, you may have trouble.
14 ) can you handle stress ?
It comes with the territory. Long hours, endless responsibility, dealing with customers, worrying about money—these can take a huge emotional toll. Some people thrive on stress. It actually makes them perform better. They stay calm in a crisis and can react quickly to change. Others fall apart when things get too hectic. Which kind of person are you?
15 ) Are you in good health ?
Running a business can be physically taxing as well. You may have to spend a lot of time on your feet and not get as much sleep as you'd like. You may not have as much time to eat properly or exercise regularly. There may be activities in the business that require a fair amount of physical strength.Take an inventory of your physical health. Do you have any chronic problems that might prevent you from operating the business efficiently? Remember, when you own the business, you have to be there day after day. A long absence because of a serious illness could spell disaster.
These questions may be heart wrenching and difficult to consider but are essential if you are to consider whether you are ready willing and able to run your own E-Commerce BUSINESS?
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