To safety net or not to safety net

owl It almost seems silly to start this post this way, but here we go…

Times are bad. If you have a job, you could very likely be at risk of losing it. If you run your own company, you could just as likely be at risk of not being able to find business.

So, what do you do? Too often in the last few months, I’ve read blog posts and tweets saying “Now is the perfect time to start a business.”  Oftentimes, the reasoning is that innovation is what is needed to turn things around, and the implication is that your innovation is what will turn things around.

You will be happier than you’ve ever been and richer than your wildest dreams. Not only that, but people will pay simply to be in your presence … okay well, maybe they’re not making that last claim.

Many of us have great ideas. That’s one reason that more people than ever are writing and self publishing books , but what if your great idea isn’t a book, but a business… a service, a product, something revolutionary?

Have you been reading all of these suggestions that say “Now is the time”? Much of me agrees that a down economy is a good time to start a business, but I caution that now is also the time for very detailed planning if you’re going out on a limb like that.

Prepare yourself for long hours. Find yourself a support group of fellow entrepreneurs. Get yourself a mentor (preferably someone who has done something similar and been successful). Either teach yourself the essentials of Web 2.0, Social Media, and Promotion, or find someone, who will do it for free or for cheap. ( Note: If you email me, I will gladly offer advice, and if you’re really persuasive, I might pitch in some help. )

The last thing to do is… prepare your friends and family. Normally, they’re your strongest supporters and your primary investors. Entrepreneurship has ruined many families and strained many friendships.  With the economy the way it is, you’re going to have to rely on them even more, and when things go bad, they’re probably gonna have to deal with you being upset too. Tell them in advance what you’re thinking of doing and what that entails.

One of the strongest signs that a business will be successful is that it’s founders have put their all into it, they only work on that project (no side jobs), and they have invested significantly of the own time AND money.

The unfortunate part about this is that, if you fail, it might be difficult to get back on your feet if the economy stays bad.

Now is a great time to follow your dreams, but take the advice of Derek Johnson , CEO of Tatango , and try keeping your project stealth as long as you can while also keeping your day job, saving for your safety net, and building out your support network, both face-to-face and online. (Hint: Try fostering what Chris Brogan calls Cafe-Shaped conversations.)

Bite-sized commentary like this isn’t enough to make sure you’ll be successful, but truth-be-told, I was starting to feel like some of these “now is the time” messages were getting a little reckless.

Thoughts?  Success stories? Help?

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  • http://piledrivercreative.com Scott Pierce

    I owed you a comment for some time, and this is a timely topic. While my clients and potential clients are suffering the anxiety of maintaining a business, I’ve been oddly focused and confident at starting a business from scratch. Why?

    For one, I’ve already made a few false starts after hanging my shingle, but so many are going down in flames around me, nobody notices.

    The other thing is, every speed bump I encounter only sharpens my focus on what my mission is. It lets me stay nimble in the highest of high wire acts, which is working for yourself. Didn’t someone already reference the doc “Man on Wire”? Check it out, there’s 90 minutes of perspective.

  • http://piledrivercreative.com Scott Pierce

    I owed you a comment for some time, and this is a timely topic. While my clients and potential clients are suffering the anxiety of maintaining a business, I’ve been oddly focused and confident at starting a business from scratch. Why?

    For one, I’ve already made a few false starts after hanging my shingle, but so many are going down in flames around me, nobody notices.

    The other thing is, every speed bump I encounter only sharpens my focus on what my mission is. It lets me stay nimble in the highest of high wire acts, which is working for yourself. Didn’t someone already reference the doc “Man on Wire”? Check it out, there’s 90 minutes of perspective.

  • http://mintresumes.wordpress.com Marsha Keeffer

    Something on the side is a great idea – smart to leverage all skills while respecting your FT employer. In this environment, any extra income can provide a huge boost in well-being. Great post, Eric!

    Marsha Keeffer’s last blog post..

  • http://mintresumes.wordpress.com Marsha Keeffer

    Something on the side is a great idea – smart to leverage all skills while respecting your FT employer. In this environment, any extra income can provide a huge boost in well-being. Great post, Eric!

    Marsha Keeffer’s last blog post..

  • http://bombsfromtheleftcoast.blogspot.com/ unimatrix0

    Sounds like sound advice. I am new to blogging, self promotion, social media and web 2.0. Any more advice would be greatly appreciated.

    unimatrix0’s last blog post.. Green Taboo: Population

  • http://bombsfromtheleftcoast.blogspot.com/ unimatrix0

    Sounds like sound advice. I am new to blogging, self promotion, social media and web 2.0. Any more advice would be greatly appreciated.

    unimatrix0’s last blog post.. Green Taboo: Population

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    Thanks, Marsha! True. Wouldn't want them to get mad that you're focusing too much on other projects. ;-)

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    Anytime you have a question, please feel free to email or tweet me. I'm more than happy to answer any questions that I do not here in the blog.

    Thanks for your comment and link to your last post. :-)

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