Chapter 1: Self Assessment
Knowing Your Situation
A. Examine your life.
Take stock of where you are in life. Part of this has to do with your age, which I’ll be discussing later, but what I’m asking you to focus on now is your responsibilities, both current and future.
B. Take inventory of your commitments.
1. Financial Commitments.
Are you behind on your bills?
Are you responsible to support others (spouse, children, parents)?
It may be that you need to adjust your time-frame, don’t abandon your business plans but maybe you’ll need to continue working your job for a while, or find a job so you’ll have some income to pay your bills.
Can you find a job that would further your business plans, for example work as an assistant with someone already in your field?
2. Time Commitments.
A new business will consume your time, at least in the launch stages.
Are you prepared to go the distance? Do your current responsibilities have any “wiggle” room in them in terms of how much time you need to give them?
For all the talk about the four hour work week –espoused by Tim Ferris in his book by the same name– when I look around at most business owners, online and offline, most of them appear to be working 10+ hour days, five or six days a week.
And while what you do is ultimately up to you, also consider that most businesses take more time than their owners initially thought they would.
That means a couple of things to me: first, if I’m going to have a different experience than the norm, I’m going to put some concerted effort into doing some things differently structurally than most: checklists and so forth and constantly be analyzing my businesses processes, and second, it’s going to behoove me to choose my business wisely.
It doesn’t have to be something I’m in love with, but it has to be something I can learn to love because I’ll likely be spending a great deal of time in it.
If you have children, consider getting them to work with you in your business. Up until very recently, this was how most children learned to work: either from their parents or by apprenticing to a professional chosen by their parents. We have gotten away from this model but I think it has much to commend it.
The family business model is an excellent one and if the particular business is chosen wisely, the children will receive experience in a variety of tasks. And this may take some of the sting out the time required to run the business.
C. Future Plans.
Of course, even if you don’t have big responsibilities right now, what is on the horizon for the near future? Will you be getting married? Having a child? Factor those realities into your plans as well.
We can’t plan for every single contingency, but by thinking about the big potential conflicts ahead of time, you will be less likely to give up when the inevitable problems arise.
A. Your Age.
Are you 18, 48, or 68?
Youth has the advantage of more time available. You have more time to make mistakes and take it slow if you want to. I think many young people should consider the apprenticeship model, as I alluded to earlier. You can literally have someone pay you to learn by working as an assistant to someone else.
And today, you can even do this from anywhere, as a Virtual Assistant or VA. And you can be making connections all along the way.
Another benefit is that you will essentially be in business for yourself, so you can take many of the tax advantages available to business owners.
Of course, anyone can work as a VA so I didn’t mean to single out younger people, but I do want to impress upon you that you age should factor into your plans. Exactly how will depend upon you and your outlook.
B. Your Past Experiences.
Here is where the not-so-young have an advantage. We have simply lived longer and have seen and experienced more. Presumably we are wiser because of it.
Do you have some unique set of experiences in your background that can be capitalized on in the marketplace?
People tend to discount their own background, experiences, and skills. Not everyone has seen and experienced what you have. And that makes you unique.
C. Your Education.
Frankly, formal education is becoming less and less important in today’s economy, though it should be considered. Take stock of your formal education, informal education such as conferences and seminars, and self education.
D. Your Work History (if any).
It almost goes without saying that you should examine your own work history when assessing a business to start. Many of us have gained some unique set of skills in one or more jobs, and we tend to discount them.
“Everyone knows how to do what I can do”, we think. Well, the reality is just the opposite. There are many people right now who want to know what you know, and will pay to get that information.
People pay for all kinds of information, including specialized information that will save them time or just satisfy some need they have to learn more.
People pay for information about baseball cards, for information on bird watching, for all types of self improvement information and, of course, for business-related information.
E. Your Natural Strengths and Weaknesses
This one is a little harder for most people to discover on their own. What you may want to consider is asking several close friends to list four or five things you are really good at doing. And prepare one of your own too. When you have several lists completed, compare them and see what keeps appearing on most of the lists.
You want to capitalize on your strengths, and find ways to overcome your weaknesses. By overcome them, I mean that you should do whatever you can to make sure they don’t make for your undoing. For example, if you’re not a detail person, get someone else to do your accounting.
F. Consider Taking a Formal Test.
There are many books and tests available that will walk you through the process of understanding yourself, and I have been through many of them myself.
If I were to pick just one, I would say to take the KOLBE test. The KOLBE test was recommended to me by my mentor and I’m so glad that he did.
You can find it at KOLBE.com. The last time I checked, it was $50. I took it as did my wife, and there is a youth version that my older children took as well.
This chapter is a little longer than most of the lessons will be, but it is a lot of foundational material that you should get out of the way early.