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11 Questions To Answer Before You Get In The Shark Tank

May 4th, 2012

Who hasn’t thought of launching a startup?

With the business press awash in articles about startups fetching valuations in the millions, not to mention the behemoths like Facebook being priced in the billions, it’s a wonder everyone isn’t tinkering in a garage.

What we rarely hear about though, are the failures. Incontrovertible data is hard to come by, but those who study business success say the failure rate for startups can be as high as 95%. If merely surviving for five years is your measure of success, the odds are about 50-50.

No wonder, then, that so many of the online ventures are captained by 2o- or 30-year-olds. It’s easier to risk everything when there’s not all that much in the first place.

If the prospect of seeing your dreams turn into nightmares hasn’t dissuaded you, then before you go quitting your day job spend a weekend considering 11 questions.  These aren’t the detailed business plan questions you can find in a thousand places online. Those come later and take longer.

Think of this as more of a feasibility exercise. That’s what Richard Sellers, chairman emeritus of the 2,000 member Marketing Executives Networking Group, calls it. “Doing a feasibility study will help you determine whether your new business idea is worth pursuing,” he says.

First on the list: “What do you want to achieve by starting your business?”

This isn’t just one of those big picture, deep thought questions, although you are encouraged to think through the lifestyle choices and the societal implications. What the question is aiming for are specifics like: How much money do you want to earn? How much do you need to earn? Are you looking for an out from an 8-to-5 workday?

The other 10 questions are equally as direct, yet equally broad enough to get you thinking about the cents and sense of it all. It’s a reality check, put together by a group of SCORE consultants. (SCORE is a non-profit mentoring and advisory group for small businesses.)

The idea is to get you thinking about all the things too many impulsive entrepreneurs skip by. An idea, no matter how brilliant everyone tells you it is, is still, just an idea. Execution is everything, as every one of the sharks in the tank tell those hopeful entrepreneurs every week.

In fact that’s not a bad idea. Watch a few episodes of Shark Tank. Then answer the 11 questions. You may find yourself happy to go back to work — for someone else — when Monday morning rolls around.

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