Sunday, September 03, 2000


Know when it's time to move on

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

        If you've been thinking about starting a business but have been dragging your feet, perhaps you're waiting for “just the right time.”

        Are you being timid or prudent? Is there such a thing as “the right time” to start a new enterprise?

        Back in 1986, when I started my own company, I didn't really set out to begin a business.

        I was burned out in my job, stuck trying to figure out what to do. I remember thinking at the time: “If I don't want to do this for 20 more years, Rhonda, get out of here sooner rather than later.” But I had been brought up not to leave a job until I had another one, and I didn't know what I wanted to do instead.

        Then my mother died. Young. Her death added to my personal turmoil, but also served as a reminder that life is short. I resigned.

        I traveled for a while, then decided I'd be a “consultant.” It was a way of putting off making a decision of what kind of job to look for. As a friend said at the time, “Being a consultant means never having to say you're unemployed.”

        I had an idea of what I'd consult about, but then something unexpected happened. While walking my dog, I met a man who needed help with a project completely unrelated to what I had intended, something I never had done before: developing a business plan.
        Helping entrepreneurs build companies. I found my calling. It's been my passion ever since. And I started building a business.

        Now, that's not exactly the way I'd advise anyone else to choose to start a company, but looking back, I realize I was a prime candidate for it being “just the right time” for me. What are the indicators it's time to hang up your own shingle, become your own boss?

        The economy is hot. In a booming economy investors have more money, customers have more money, and you probably have more money.

        Sure, there are downsides: higher rents and wages, harder-to-find employees, suppliers, materials. But your own services or products will be in demand, and customers are likely to be less price-sensitive.

        There's an old saying: “The time to take them is when the tarts are being passed.” In an expanding economy, a lot of tarts get passed.

        • The economy is cold. Have you heard the term “opportunity cost”? That describes the notion you have to figure not only how much something costs in dollars, but how much it costs in lost opportunities. If you've been downsized with a severance package, you've got a lot less to lose than your friend who's still got a nice, secure job.

        • Your skills are in great demand. When your boss can't afford to lose you is when you can most afford to lose your boss. If a lot of companies need people with your abilities, it may be an ideal time to start your own consulting or service company.

        • You're going through life changes. Sometimes the best time to start something new is at a turning point: moving, finishing school, change in family circumstances.

        Of course, it all depends on how much you can handle emotionally and financially. If you've gone through a recent divorce, you may need the stability and security of your job.

        But if your children have left home (finally!), you may be able to put your new freedom to use starting a business.

        • You can't take it anymore. Can't stand your job? Hate your boss? Some of the most successful entrepreneurs I know are people who can't stand working for other people. Of course, if you can't stand anyone, you're not a good candidate for running a company.

        If you've got no other options, can't figure out what else to do, have someone make you an offer you can't refuse, or you just can't stop thinking about running your own business, it may be “just the right time” for you to start a business. What are you waiting for?

        Rhonda Abrams is the author of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. For free business tips, register at or write her at 555 Bryant St. 180, Palo Alto, CA 94301.



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