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  • Writer's pictureMike Petchenik

Taking The Plunge

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

They say, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

I’m not sure it applies in this case, but I’m going with it so just play along, please.

For more than twenty years, I worked for other people, mainly at news organizations, and most recently at a healthcare tech startup.

For more than twenty years, I managed to dodge a bullet many of my friends did not: layoffs.

That’s saying something in the TV news business where managers change roles as often people change channels. (True story: I once had four news directors in four years at the same station).

But, alas, this Spring, my streak ran out when my employer cut my position as part of a reduction in force.

It sucked at first, but it gave me some perspective and stoked the flames of a fire already burning inside of me.

I’ve always wanted to start my own company; I just never had the balls to really do it.

My parents often tell me about the time my father, an electrical engineer by background, came home one day when I was a baby, and told my mom he was quitting his steady job at Texas Instruments to start a new company in the computer chip sales business. (he successfully ran it for more than two decades).

I guess the entrepreneurial gene was tucked into my DNA somewhere just itching to make an appearance.

So, after two months of fruitless job searching, two months of “we’re going a different direction,” and at least one recruiter ghosting me, I felt the universe tugging me back to where, in my heart, I knew I wanted to go all along.

If I’m being honest, did I have much of a choice? 😊.

I suppose I could have just decided to be a house husband/stay-at-home dad, but truthfully, I can’t even load the dishwasher properly.

For many, the thought of starting their own business after years of working for someone else can be equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. The idea of being your own boss, pursuing your passions, and reaping the rewards of your hard work is undeniably appealing.

But that’s not without risk.

A recent study by “Lending Tree” found my adopted home state of Georgia has the 7th highest rate of small business failures in their first year.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail within their first year, 30% fail within their second year, and by the fifth year, nearly half of all startups have closed their doors. Ouch. Full stop.

If you’re reading this, you might be in the same position, or at least know/love someone who is.

So, rather than listening to me bloviate about my passions or rolling your eyes as I try to sell you my skills, how about some advice for those of us forging our own paths courtesy of my good friend, ChatGPT?

(Disclaimer: Chatty Cathy likes to wax poetic on some of this stuff)

Overcoming the Fear:

Research and Planning: Knowledge is power when it comes to starting a business. Conduct thorough market research to understand your target audience, competitors, and industry trends. Create a comprehensive business plan that outlines your goals, strategies, and financial projections. This groundwork will provide a solid foundation and boost your confidence.

Seek Mentorship: Consider seeking guidance from experienced entrepreneurs or industry professionals who can offer insights and advice. Joining networking groups or seeking out mentorship programs can provide invaluable support and help alleviate fears.

Embrace Continuous Learning: Starting a business requires acquiring new skills and staying updated with industry advancements. Invest in your personal and professional growth through workshops, courses, or online resources. Expanding your knowledge will boost your confidence and equip you to overcome challenges.

Building a Strong Customer Base:

Define Your Target Audience: Identify your ideal customers and understand their needs, preferences, and pain points. Tailor your products or services to address these specific requirements and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Develop a Compelling Brand Identity: Craft a strong brand identity that reflects your values, mission, and unique selling proposition. Consistently communicate your brand message through engaging storytelling, a visually appealing logo, a well-designed website, and compelling marketing materials.

Leverage Digital Marketing: Embrace the power of digital marketing to reach a wider audience. Develop a strong online presence through social media platforms, search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, and email campaigns. Engage with your target audience, provide valuable content, and establish yourself as an authority in your industry.

Offer Exceptional Customer Service: In the early stages of your business, word-of-mouth can be a powerful marketing tool. Provide exceptional customer service, exceed expectations, and encourage satisfied customers to spread the word. Positive reviews and testimonials can significantly impact your reputation and attract new customers.

Leverage Networking Opportunities: Attend industry conferences, join professional organizations, and participate in local business events to expand your network. Networking can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and referrals.

Good stuff, Chatty C. Thanks for the advice!

And, for those of you inventing your own path out of necessity, I wish you the best of luck and success!

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