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  Welcome to the sixth article in our series on building a successful consulting business.

In this piece, we will take a look at ‘When is the right time in your life to start-up a new business?’. If you don’t want to miss future articles where we’ll be exploring all aspects of building a successful consulting business, register for the Top-Consultant newsletter to ensure you’re alerted to each new article as it’s published.

Right Time in your Life?

This is, of course, a question only you can answer, but if I had to give some steers, I would say that there is a danger of going too early if you have:

• Insufficient grounding, and/or qualification, in the professional service area you seek to provide (obvious hopefully);
• A very limited professional network – both in terms of potential future clients and colleagues to join you;
• No experience of business development (selling) and business operation.

In such a place, you may be better planning in a few deliberate ‘stepping stones’. Make your mistakes on somebody else’s payroll, get the ‘Big Firm’ tick on your CV, start to build your contact list, read some more.

Conversely, there is a danger of leaving it too late if you:

• Are in danger of losing the appetite for the ‘hard miles’ required; you need a good five to seven years of fairly high octane energy left in the tank;
• Are too set in your ways; the entrepreneurial journey requires real flexibility, a hunger to learn new skills and this might not come readily to the cynic who feels ‘they have seen it all before’;
• Are gradually losing your nerve and starting to fear failure too much. Some subscribe to the bank account analogy of risk taking. That is we all get given (by nature of our disposition, upbringing etc) a certain amount of ‘courage tokens’. As we cash them in over the course of our lives, so our balance (or appetite for risk) reduces.

As I touch in another extract, this ‘sweet spot’ (the space between these two poles) tends to start around the early to mid-thirties when you will have acquired sufficient professional skills, experiences, gravitas and contacts but also have a real hunger and energy to be successful.

There are, however, absolutely no ageist rules here. Of course, a certain minimum level of skill and experience is necessary (such that the market would be prepared to pay for your time/expertise) but, beyond this, the right mind-set and attitude can overcome most other challenges. As I have said before, don’t feel you need to be the complete article before you ‘press go’ either. If you are waiting for this, it will never happen.

In the next edition, I address an aspirant entrepreneur on the topic of ‘Appetite for work’ – another important consideration if you are weighing up whether running your own company is for you.

This is an extract from the Five-Year Entrepreneur series of learning modules (guides and related resources) that can be found at Designed for the managing owner(s) of professional service businesses (or entrepreneurs in the making), the series provides a step-by-step approach to building a successful – and valuable – professional service business.

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