Going into business for yourself isn’t something to be taken lightly. It’s also something that you should try at least once in your lifetime. That’s what I’ve gathered after speaking with numerous entrepreneurs – some successful, some not. Based on their feedback, I’ve determined that launching your own business can be the single most frightening – and rewarding – thing you can ever do, professionally speaking.

“It’s not for everyone.”

Ran Mullins

Ran Mullins is co-founder of Globili – a “global mobile marketing and communications platform that turns static content into timely dynamic content available in over 50 languages.” Basically, they take your concept and make it look really cool to people all around the world. (Remember the 2012 World Choir Games? They helped make that happen.)

Globili isn’t Ran’s first venture. He founded Metaphor Studio – a full-service digital agency – in 1997. He says Metaphor grew quickly thanks to “word of mouth and referrals.”

Before selling Metaphor in 2009, he founded EditSpot – “a cloud-based website builder and content management system.”

“EditSpot was started because I had a number of small business, non-profit and arts clients that needed website updates,” Ran explains, “but (they) didn’t want to pay our hourly fees as we grew.”

Globili, Ran says, “…is just an idea whose time has come. Bill (Donabedian) came to me with the idea and it just seemed like something that should already exist, but it didn’t. We launched with the World Choir Games and saw immediately that people would use this if it was available to them.”

Many businesses are formed for that reason – finding a way of meeting a need that doesn’t already exist. So what does it take to get started?

Risk vs. Reward

Ran says one of the biggest hurdles is “overcoming so many fears of the unknown, including taxes, insurance, HR, etc. It can be so overwhelming at first and either you adapt to the rhythm of it or you don’t.”

Once you get past the day-in, day-out operations of running a business, Ran says every small victory can be rewarding. “I’ve always loved it when a solution we created as a team is fully embraced by the client,” he says. “We have received company-wide standing ovations from companies that couldn’t solve an issue working with multiple vendors until we provided the solution. That is a very satisfying feeling. To know you are improving someone’s world in some way is very rewarding.”

A lot has been made of the fact that the majority of new business ventures fail within the first year. The secret, according to Ran, is keeping the faith.

“You have to know that the possibility of failure is very real and ever present,” he explains, “but be strong enough to not let it consume you. Believe in yourself and never, never, never give up. Be willing to fail, but only if you have exhausted every avenue thoroughly. So many things can happen in the blink of an eye that can make or break the business. You must believe you are strong enough to cope, or you won’t be.”

Keep This in Mind

I asked Ran for three things anyone who’s thinking about launching his/her own business should keep in mind. Here’s his advice:

  1. Get great partners in the finance and legal realms. They must believe in you and be willing to weather the storms with you. Because there will be storms. In the end everyone wins once you succeed.
  2. Personal relationships will suffer because of your choices. Know this. You have to choose the right partner who supports you no matter what because you are going to be forced to make decisions that are not intuitive and that fly in the face of logic. It’s part of the job description.
  3. It’s all the time. You can never stop thinking about the business. It’s your passion and purpose. When it isn’t you’ll fail. In most jobs it is probably healthier not to identify yourself so closely with your career, but as an entrepreneur you must embrace and own who you and why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s required.

Ian Edwards (Amy Elizabeth Photography)

About Those Partnerships/Getting Started

One of the more challenging aspects of starting a business can be securing funding. Ian Edwards is managing partner at Big I Investments. Over the years, he’s invested in a number of different businesses, “…including retail, pharmaceutical, agricultural, Biotech, clean tech, technology, chemical and a variety of other investments. My favorites are the ones which have and will make money.”

So where does one look when seeking start-up funds? Ian suggests you “first look for investment from yourself, friends and family. If people who know you won’t invest why should anyone else?”

It’s All About the Plan

The best way to get from point A to point B has always been a successful roadmap. The same is true in business. “A good business plan is essential,” Ian says. But don’t try to make things up as you go along. Be as thorough as possible, and know your competition.

“Bear in mind that professional investors have seen many such plans and are not fooled by pretty charts and projections,” Ian warns. “They will look at past performance of companies in similar (areas).”

There are many resources available for first-time entrepreneurs. A seasoned CPA with business consulting experience is a good place to start, as is the Small Business Administration. They have the tools you need to help you craft your business plan.

“He who takes most of the risk wants most of the equity.”

That statement certainly makes sense. And that’s why Ian says it’s hard for the “idea man” to keep the bulk of the investment in the early stages. So instead of seekng venture capital, he recommends start-ups try to “obtain money from ‘softer sources’ until true VC money is needed. The idea will have a higher valuation.”

Once you get the ball rolling and have people who are ready to invest, Ian also stresses the importance of making sure you have enough money to really get things off the ground.

“Investors hate people coming back for money due to missed business plans,” he says, adding they “will likely ‘reward’ you accordingly.” (In other words? They’ll likely lose interest.)

In fact, Ian says initial funding is one of the things he looks for in a potential investment. “at least to the point that others will come in at a higher valuation,” he says.

So – what else does he look for?

Aside from profitability (naturally), Ian says he looks for “competent management.” In other words, know your business inside and out. Study your competition. Try to plan ahead for bumps in the road.

Another plus? “A winning idea, hopefully with some form of patent or first entrant protection.”

So, how do you know if your idea is a winner? Again, do your homework. Get feedback from others – namely those initial folks you’ll be hitting up for cash to get things started.

Advice for the Uninitiated

Ran Mullins listed three things entrepreneurs should keep in mind when launching their first business. I wanted to get Ian’s perspective as an investor as well. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. Things always take longer than you think so you need access to enough capital to see you through to cash generation.
  2. You can’t be an expert in everything. You need the ability to buy expertise you don’t personally have.
  3. You need to be frugal with cash burn until you are generating cash.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

“The most rewarding moment,” Ran says, “is when the business that you architected starts to run along smoothly without you. The funny thing is that if you become complacent at that point then the whole thing can fall apart.”

Once you get that first taste of success, don’t think you’re invulnerable.

“Even the best teams need the forward vision to motivate them,” he adds.

Sometimes that “vision” is all the motivation it takes for someone to take that first step towards realizing his/her dreams. Maybe this article provided enough inspiration for you to do just that. Take chances. Dream big. Make it real. If not now, when?