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The Entrepreneur’s Checklist For Beginners: Are You Serious?

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You want to start a business, do you? You want to tell the boss to “take a flyin’...” and venture out  on your own. Yeah!  The question is: are you serious, or just wishing on the moon tonight?

Is there a game plan written down in your dresser or laptop? Is the stash of cash under the mattress or in the  five- gallon water jug  in your office full of seed money?  Do you have a college or high school student, are you mentoring a young professional and talk of becoming an entrepreneur  is in the air?

As longtime members of the entrepreneur’s tribe, I  hear stories, dreams and plans from college students, recent graduates, seasoned business professionals, and longtime corporate suit types that say they want to start their own business, yet when pressed for a written plan, one is not in sight. They are not serious and only dreaming.

Here’s a  quick checklist/test/tips  for those of you seriously entertaining joining the tribe. Ask yourself some of serious questions and decide if you’re really prepared to commit  or maybe it’s best to stay  an employee for a while.

1.    What’s your real motive? Fame, power, wealth, boredom, escapism, prove something to your parents or yourself? Look deeper into your inner drive and desires.

2.    Is this goal one of a career advancement or lifestyle choice? Some people start businesses with a plan to grow it and ultimately sell it. Others, decide to keep their business small, have more flexibility and freedom for family, vacations, other adventures, thus the plan to keep doing it even in semi-retirement.

3.    Do you have a bank account designated solely as your entrepreneur fund? Why not? Start socking away hundreds/thousands of bucks a month to support your adventure. If you don’t invest, why should others take you seriously—let alone give you seed money?

4.    Practice” Delayed Gratification.” Can you wait for success? Can you wait to get the slick 42” HD TV? Can you drive your old car another year? Can you live in a smaller house for a while longer? If so, you’ll make it. If you can’t put off  not having all the cool stuff that your neighbors have now, you’re not cut out for the entrepreneur’s tribe just yet.

5.    Expect to go it alone. Most people can’t stomach the perceived risks of running your own business. Funding your own healthcare insurance, retirement fund, paying employees, home equity loans—all the scary stuff like that keeps people out of the tribe. Not all bad however. Less people eating your food and stealing your mates!

6.    Expect support. Family, friends, associates that you trust and believe in your are your new board of advisors…until you get running. Then you need objective advice from professionals outside your business.

7.    Write your business plan and goals down NOW. If it isn’t written, you’re not serious, no matter what you tell yourself or others. Detailed, with dates, goals, pictures, markets—everything that will need to get done should be in that plan.

8.    Networking without direction is a waste of time. Do research on your market/product/service of choice. Read, listen, watch, study, act. Business cocktail parties are not productive and only boost your ego, not your contact base. You may even give away your secret too soon.

9.    Pay for counsel. Spend some money out of your fund to get professional, unbiased advice. Uncles and parents are not the ideal mentors to talk about risk, investing, technology, etc. Learn from those in similar industries.

10.     Be flexible/be inflexible. If you’re committed, you stay the course and be willing to change directions if your goal, i.e. business idea shifts, disappears, loses social interest, crashes.

11.    Pray—a lot. Faith in your creator is critical when faced with long odds of starting a business. Believe in your ability and listen to what you say when your talk to yourself. Listen and learn from what you feel and how you react to pressures and new information.

12.    Read. Read. Read. Listen. Review. Ask questions. TV is a waste of your time. Make yourself wealthy by learning, not by watching other’s get rich while you watch them.

13.    Sacrifice. Entrepreneurs miss parties, a lot of sleep, TV, concerts, sunsets and fiction books. What you’re willing to give up says more about what you’re willing to go after. Take care of your spouse, your family, your friends first. The rest of the stuff that fills time can be postponed till later. The payoff will be well worth it.

14.    Eat macaroni and cheese and carry a cool pen. Be frugal with expenses and save your cash for marketing, travel and other expenses that will drive you closer to your goals and success. Don’t look cheap. Dress like superstar, carry quality gear and keep your car looking fine. Image is important—with substance behind the image.

15.    Are you right for this adventure? Look yourself right in the heart and gut: do you see a person that has the drive, the skills or willingness to get the needed skills? Are you willing to save, work overtime, really study your craft and commit to succeed no matter what? If so, then welcome aboard. It’s gonna be a wild and exciting ride.

Read this list every week till until you’ve created a written action plan. Pass this list on to young people you know that show that spark of entrepreneurship. They’ll be grateful you did.


Dr. Russ Riendeau has written 5 books  related to talent management and career change. His newest book is The CEO’s Guide to Talent Acquisition (Eyecatcher Press 2008). He is a nationally recognized speaker on topics related to peak performance and  talent acquisition strategies.

Russ  started his first company at age 5, selling re-straightened nails out of his red wagon to carpenters building houses in his neighborhood. Educated as a development psychologist, Russ has been in the executive search business since 1985 and is the founder of The East Wing Search Group in Barrington, IL.

He is also a member of Vistage International, the largest CEO membership organization in the world.  Russ lives with his family in Barrington, IL. He can be reached at 847-381-0977 or


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