Q. I'm doing lots of research about running my own consulting company. Actually, I've been thinking about this for years. Is there ever a safe time to jump? I really want to do it but think I need a little more reassurance. Any last minute advice?
A. Congratulations for taking the time to carefully evaluate your new business opportunity. It's definitely the smart way to go.
For super conscientious entrepreneurs who have already done a lot of traditional pre-launch homework, here's a good challenge that can help improve or disprove a business idea's commercial viability.
The challenge is best summarized as follows: "Before you leap, jump or take the plunge, let's remember to wear a parachute."
This statement is not meant to be cute, but to highlight that there are some things entrepreneurs can do to soften the landing before leaping from the corporate nest. Entrepreneurship should never be a blind free fall.
Businesses fail when entrepreneurs can't generate enough customers and cash flow to cover business expenses as well as personal living expenses. Yes, every new business faces a period of negative cash flow, but it shouldn't go on forever.
Startup entrepreneurs that tend to survive in business do everything possible to generate paying customers and reach cash flow break-even as fast as they can. You can too.
So here is your challenge. Make a list of 30 to 50 credible targets for your proposed consulting services. Then take some vacation days to interview as many of these targets as possible to confirm their interest in your service, the price range they would pay for the service and the likelihood that they would hire you within 1 month of starting your business. Yes, 1 month. If your targets express too many reservations, then step back from the ledge. Some retooling is needed before taking the plunge.
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Susan Schreter is a 20-year veteran of the venture finance community, MBA-level educator and policy advocate for small business owners. Her work is dedicated to improving startup operating performance with reduced personal risk to entrepreneurs. She is the founder of www.takecommand.org, which offers the largest centralized database of regional and national small business funding sources in the U.S., including angel clubs, micro-finance lenders, venture capital funds and more. Follow Susan on Twitter @TakeCommand