January is generally a time for resolutions and change. Most of us have the opportunity to think and reflect on the year gone by and make plans for the year ahead. Many of us start with good intentions but I wonder how many of us actually stick with our resolutions?
A recent survey by LA Fitness revealed the 40 most common resolutions we make. The list is interesting and it contains many of the usual things that people will identify with. So, there are all those issues around health like losing weight, drinking less and stopping smoking. Then there are the leisure and family activities like starting a new hobby, seeing more of the family, working fewer hours and travelling more regularly. What struck me as really interesting was resolution number 24, which was to 'start my own business'.
If you do want to succeed with your resolution to start your own business then read on for some practical advice about whether it's for you and why you should or shouldn't take the plunge. It is particularly relevant for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation at the moment as applications are open for this year's scheme. Whether you're a recent graduate, non- graduate or are already in work you should check out the programme and see if it's for you.
The first piece of advice is to examine whether you really want to be an entrepreneur. Life for a 'real' entrepreneur isn't the glossy high profile and glamorous lifestyle as depicted by TV programmes like 'The Apprentice' or 'Dragon's Den'. Starting a business is really hard work and there is no guarantee that your business will succeed. You need to have a huge amount of resilience, passion, drive and ambition. Here are some other personal characteristics that (most) successful entrepreneurs have.
Having decided that this is the right career path, you will need to decide on your next steps. Do you already have a business idea and are looking for mentoring, funding or advice? Or, are you still undecided on the idea and just want to get some more training? Or do you want to network with like-minded people to learn more about entrepreneurship? You may also be considering joining one of the entrepreneurship courses delivered by the Universities. Whatever you are looking for, a great place to start is the NEF Directory, which you can access here. http://www.newentrepreneursfoundation.co.uk/
This is a fantastic starting point for start-up programmes, incubators and accelerators, funding, networking and University programmes.
Look at this resource, contact the organisations that interest you and arrange to meet them. This is a good first step towards making your ambition a reality. I am sure that somewhere within this Directory is the right support programme for you.
There are other things you should also do if you're a completely new to entrepreneurship or don't know where to start:
• Sign up for entrepreneurial networking events near you. There are literally hundreds of events every day and most are free so look up any in your local area
• Join online forums and discussion groups. This will give you an idea of what's hot in the start-up world and who the key players are.
• Start following entrepreneurs on twitter and other social media
• Sign up for competitions to win mentoring/help/support etc.
• Read the latest books on entrepreneurship. Examples include 'The Lean Start-up' 'Confessions of an Entrepreneur'
• Get an internship in a start-up as there's nothing like getting your hands dirty to understand what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur!
If you're thinking about joining a formal, one year entrepreneurship development programme, then have a look at the NEF programme here. http://www.newentrepreneursfoundation.co.uk/
Our applications for the next class are open until mid- February and more information about how to apply is here. http://newentrepreneursfoundation.com/programme-explained/apply-now/
Most of us give up on our New Year's resolutions before the end of January but if you are determined to make this year different and you want to start a business, my final piece of advice, borrowed from Nike, is 'Just Do It!' You have nothing to lose and there is more support and advice now available than ever before, so good luck!