A while back, I wrote a blog post, “Memo To Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Learn Before You Launch.” It was my effort to communicate to would-be business owners—many of them looking to escape hated jobs, desperate for an income solution after being laid off, or eager to make fast money as a mogul on the rise—that there are no easy short-cuts to successful, sustainable entrepreneurship. Too often, I and my colleagues at Black Enterprise have to tell the inconvenient truth: being your own boss takes lots of time. It takes diligent planning. It takes great, mutually supportive relationships and contacts. And most of all, it takes work, work and more work. (And did I mention work?)
Those unwilling to embrace this truth usually end up doing entrepreneurship the hardest and most costly way possible—by trial and error—and become unhappy and frustrated, if not bankrupt. Or, intimidated, they give up on their dreams of business ownership altogether, deciding that they are not really cut out for the risks and challenges of entrepreneurship. (And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.) The rest get their mind, body, relationships and resources committed to learning exactly what it will require to take their venture from potential opportunity to profitable enterprise. These are the ones who go on to launch, build and run successful, profitable businesses.
If you’re in the last group, or aspire to be, I strongly recommend you read Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works by Melinda F. Emerson. The founder and CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, a marketing video production company, Emerson does more than just steer you away from mythical short-cuts. She literally provides a month by month road map, with critical checkpoints along the way, for anyone who is truly committed to their entrepreneurial journey, bringing clarity to the fundamentals of starting a business in any industry.
Become Your Own Boss In 12 Months is not a substitute for other books aimed at helping entrepreneurs get new ventures off the ground. For example, while Emerson, a small-business consultant, devotes a chapter to business plan writing, there are other good books totally devoted to that topic. However, if you’re serious about entrepreneurship, Become Your Own Boss could well be the first book in a steady regimen of self-education and continuous learning common to all outstanding entrepreneurs. Become Your Own Boss In 12 Months is ideal as required reading before moving on to books on more specialized aspects (business planning, incorporation and financing, etc.) of launching a business.
What Emerson does best is to give aspiring business owners constant reality checks along the way, avoiding the rah-rah, inspirational tone of many books which champion entrepreneurship. Instead, Emerson blends enthusiasm for business ownership and an encouraging demeanor, while unflinchingly addressing the price entrepreneurs must anticipate, plan for, and be prepared to pay to achieve their objectives, including potential strain on marriages and other relationships, as well as the inevitable impact on their finances and their lifestyles as a whole. The fact that Emerson leads off by emphasizing that would be entrepreneurs must establish a life plan before creating a business plan—and that the two must line-up and be compatible, if not integrated, with each other—may be the best thing about the book.
If you’re even thinking about starting your own business some day—or even if you’re an established entrepreneur who started on the path to business ownership without a road map and need help deciding where to go next—do yourself a favor: Now read this. You’ll thank me later. Actually, you’ll be thanking Emerson.