Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Success requires overcoming potholes, twists, and blown tires while driving 90 miles an hour down the road to success. Striking out on your own takes a giant leap of faith.
Some people are born entrepreneurs, but not everyone intuitively knows when they are ready to take the plunge and start a company. It takes careful planning, commitment and timing. Sometimes it even takes the strength to leave a steady well-paying job to take a chance on yourself.
Nir Polak, CEO and co-founder of Exabeam, an emerging big data security analytics company, decided to leave a job after 10 years to launch his company. I spoke with Nir about the point when he knew it was time, and he had this advice to share with others considering it:
1. Make sure you want to create
Entrepreneurs thrive in the dangerous waters of creation, where every decision can make a major difference. When you start a company and build a solid team, you realize that you all win or lose together, and that turns on the creative fuel. You must have the passion for creation in order to build your company from scratch.
2. Acknowledge what you don’t know
When you’re hiring key players in the early days of a startup, look at the skills and experiences that you don’t have, and hire the team that can address those needs. You need to be pragmatic about putting together a cohesive group with a collective skill set that meets all your strategic requirements.
3. Consider what you already know
There’s a phrase in Hebrew – sachkan neshama– that directly translated means “soul player.” Entrepreneurs put their whole hearts into creating something new. But you can also be an effective piece in an existing company, and that’s a good approach for on-the-job education. After 10 years working in engineering, product management, and corporate strategy roles, Polak says he was well rounded enough to build successful company. That’s hard to do when you’re inexperienced, and it’s an essential part of entrepreneurship.
4. Create a checklist
A checklist can be helpful for a lot of important choices, but entrepreneurship generally demands more gut-level decision-making. These questions serve as a reality check on whether or not you’re ready to start your own business; answer them honestly:
- Where do you fit in? You have to see a market need that isn’t being fully met, and you have to be driven to build a product that doesn’t yet exist.
- Are you a risk taker? You can’t start a company if you’re constantly afraid of failure. You will fall, and you will have to pick up yourself (and your team) back up.
- Are you open to learning? Your career experience is key, but you’ll need to acquire new skills as an entrepreneur while learning from advisors and the team you hire.
Once you’ve accepted the challenge of becoming an entrepreneur and start your own company, remember to have fun. It’s a long challenging marathon, but one that Polak says is thrilling to run.