by Sunny K. Lurie, PhD,
illustration by Barbara Hranilovich
If you’re wondering how to navigate the onramp to a new business venture after having been out of the workforce raising kids, there are four major steps to help you succeed—even if you have no prior experience. If you work “authentically”—completely and honestly being who you are—and pursue a dream with intense determination and focus, the fact that you don’t have a line on your resume saying you’ve done this before can matter little.
1. Uncover your true strengths, talents, and passions. Take a step back and discover YOU. Most successful entrepreneurs, including Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, have said that a critical ingredient in great achievement is passion. You may have a product idea in mind, but be sure to align it with a market need as well as your own personal need. Even if you’re inexperienced, if your project is meaningful then your potential is unlimited. Career experts often say that one of the most harmful career mistakes is working in a field that is mismatched to you.
How do you determine which idea is right for you? Begin by brainstorming and see what triggers your energy and what motivates you. List 20 things you like to do, then look for patterns. You may discover, for example, that it’s important to you to be physically active and that your project should not involve working behind a desk all day. Or, you may want to work in a busy and social environment, which might rule out a secluded laboratory.
Answer the following questions and evaluate your answers:
• What is one strength you would like to use in your work?
• What’s an example of something that is really important to you in your work?
• What is your “blue flame” (where a passion and an ability intersect)?
You’ll know a particular business idea is right when you are curious and enthusiastic about learning more and you feel a burning desire to get started.
2. Explore new possibilities and stretch your imagination. We are living in an amazing time, with more new types of businesses emerging than ever before. With choices exploding, look around the work world. If you are looking at ownership and franchise opportunities, select areas that match your calling. Never settle. Investigate ideas or imagine creating something unique by combining two interests together, which is how the Zagat Survey was born. Nina and Tim Zagat took an absolute passion for dining out and their fun hobby of surveying friends about restaurant experiences and blended them into a new twist to start a worldwide restaurant survey business.
If you’re looking at a children’s-related business, research the latest trends in the industry. Before you grab the ball and run, stretch the idea. Maybe you want your business to involve your love of children and art. You can open a business teaching children’s art classes or you can expand your idea further to include your skill in psychology, creating an art play studio helping at-risk children through art.
The point here is to dig deeper. Be patient. Explore your options, research business ideas, and look for ways to make your idea distinctly your own before choosing the right business match for you.
3. Create an action plan with names, places, and dates. To reach your target, keep in mind what Lance Armstrong’s mother told him: “It’s not a goal until it’s written down.” According to many business experts, the fastest, surest way to reach your business goal is to develop and follow an action plan. This allows you to break the large goal into specific actions and dates so you can focus intensely on each monthly and weekly step.
For example, an action plan to investigate a new baby safety product would include figuring out the following:
• Who to contact in government safety programs
• What are reliable Web sites on baby products
• Where does a professional safety association hold meetings
• When is the date I want to join the association
4. Launch your project with a network behind you. The secret sauce is people. There’s a saying, “dreams die in isolation,” that often holds true. Let your dreams blossom into reality by involving people who cheer you on and provide valuable knowledge. More ideas will be produced with others, and it’s interesting that other people often can see for us what we may not see for ourselves. Other people can push us through walls that block us, sometimes just by having a new set of eyes on the problem.
To grow your network, make a list of optimistic individuals you would feel comfortable asking to be part of your own personal think tank. Use them in several ways: to assist in identifying business opportunities, help you gain knowledge you may not have, find contacts, determine ways to brand and market, and keep you on target.
The final word is that there is an innate passion within each of us. When it’s tapped and properly used, you heighten the chance to set yourself apart from the competition and really bring your business alive. Even if you haven’t gone down this road before.
Sunny K. Lurie is the creator of Fast Focus Careers, a firm offering workshops to help individuals launch passionate work ideas that succeed.