Deciding When is the Right Time to Start a Business

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Prospective entrepreneurs frequently delay action until the “right time” to start a business  arrives. Ideally, the “right time” is imagined as a stress-free period when the usual problems and headaches of everyday life crumble away. Once this time comes, entrepreneurs believe, the struggle to get a business off the ground will be vastly easier. Although it’s impossible to pin down the right timing for every entrepreneur, some times are unquestionably more conducive to getting started than others.

If you are unsure of when to begin your own start-up process, consider the following.


There is no denying the benefit of youth to starting a business. For one thing, energy levels are naturally higher and easier to sustain during your 20’s and 30’s than during your 40’s or 50’s. Since the start-up period tends to be the most difficult and challenging, an inspired effort is needed. Additionally, younger people tend to have fewer long-term obligations and commitments. A college student in his early 20’s, for instance, is unlikely to have a preexisting career obstructing his business goals. Clearly, it is easier to build a life around a business you already have than to restructure your life around one started later. By starting early, you can take the self-employment leap and never look back.

None of this is to say you cannot start a business later in life. That said, you should be mindful of the barriers likely to be encountered the longer you wait. The older you are, the likelier it is that your existing lifestyle and obligations will hurt your business goals rather than help.

Spouse & Family

Another crucial ingredient in the timing of starting a business is your spouse and family situation. If you are single, there is no obstacle to worry about. But if you are married or dating, you must assess whether your relationship can withstand the lifestyle changes. Your new work hours could differ substantially from your partner’s. Money could temporarily be tight. Moreover, it will be an immense obstacle if your partner does not believe in venture. As a practical matter, starting a business is not feasible without the “moral support” of your significant other. Attempting to press on in spite of their opposition will lead to countless arguments that serve only to shatter your focus.

Before plunging in, have a serious discussion with your partner. Cover everything you believe to be important about starting the business: your new projected work schedule, the impact (if any) on your finances, why you are doing this and what you expect to accomplish. The timing will not be right until the two of you see eye to eye on each of these things.

Debt Levels

Your debt to income ratio must also be taken into account. Some types of businesses (like restaurants) are extremely capital intensive and require high levels of debt financing. But starting such a business is not practical if you are already mired in debt. A person who is currently struggling to fight off credit card companies and repay student loans, for instance, is in no position to take on business loans. Lenders would not make the loans even if you felt capable of repaying them. Your first priority in this instance should be repaying what is owed. Once your debts are wiped clean, it will be a far more opportune time to get your company off the ground.

There is also the matter of whether your personal credit score qualifies you for business loans. Though not all businesses are capital intensive, a great deal of them are and lack of credit constitutes a serious roadblock. Even if you do not anticipate borrowing a ton of money, you should exhaust every effort to raise your credit score.

Economics & Careers

Finally, you ought to consider both the overall economic climate and the career you will be passing up. As noted earlier, having a preexisting career makes the timeline of starting a business a lot hazier. It could be that your current career, while not particularly exciting or enjoyable, is quite lucrative and affords you a comfortable standard of living. If so, you must accept the risk that your business could involve a temporary downgrade in this area. At a bare minimum, you must ensure that the basic necessities of life (your mortgage payment, bills, utilities, etc.) will not be neglected. Taking a realistic and conservative approach, you could delay startup until you’ve saved enough to live on for six months or a year.

The economic climate also warrants consideration. Ignore sweeping, melodramatic news reports about “the economy” as a whole and focus more on the economy as it relates to you. For instance, few sane minds would have concluded that late 2008 was the ideal time to start an investment bank or an auto dealership. There was no better time, however, to go into business as a foreclosure specialist or auctioneer.


In sum, the “right time” to start a business depends entirely on your own circumstances. Above all, assess where you stand on each of these areas: age, spouse/family, debt levels, the economy and your career. If it realistically appears that there are more opportunities than obstacles, that is as close to it being the right time as you can ask for.


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