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The Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

If you have heard my story before, you know that I started Pinnacle Group when I was 25 years old on the living room floor of my apartment. It is so rewarding to see how Pinnacle has grown from that initial idea to the fastest growing woman-owned company in the country twice! But, none of that happened overnight.

It took us 23 years to be considered an “overnight sensation.” None of that could have been achieved without the principles that were instilled in the company from the beginning and the commitment from my amazing team.

Before starting Pinnacle, I asked myself several questions that I think all entrepreneurs can use to think about as they start a company or as they steer it through the challenges.

The Most Important Question: Why?

It might seem cliché or obvious, but so many entrepreneurs forget to answer this question when starting a business. Why do you want to start this business? Why do you even want to be an entrepreneur?

Are you doing this to get rich? Are you doing it to change an industry? Are you trying to make a name for yourself?

Being an entrepreneur is extremely hard work. It’s time consuming, risky, frustrating, and, sometimes, downright terrifying. But it’s also the most rewarding work you can do. So, to put yourself through all of the tough things that come along with entrepreneurship, you better have a really solid reason why.

For me, it was to support my family. It was to establish myself in this country. It was to change the community and the world for the better, as both a minority and a woman. And, it was to uphold the family values of entrepreneurship and giving back to the community that were passed down to me by my parents.

While my industry might be IT and workforce solutions, these principles apply to any industry. The business itself wasn’t the goal, that wasn’t my “why.” The business was what I was good at and trained to do (and it was fun!). But the values and other driving forces were what caused me to take that leap of faith from my apartment floor.

What Problem Do You Want to Solve or What Need Do You Want to Fill?

This question focuses on the end product and solutions. What are you trying to accomplish or what problem are you trying to solve? Why start a new business when there’s another one that you could go work for that’s already doing what you are doing? What unmet need do you see in the marketplace that you alone can fill?

How can you set yourself and your business apart?

These are vital questions to ask yourself before you go all-in as an entrepreneur. I am a huge supporter of entrepreneurs and I constantly encourage people to start businesses, but I also want people to make calculated risks that have a high likelihood of paying off for them.

When I started Pinnacle, I saw an incredible unmet need for IT talent during the dot-com boom. I started an IT staffing and solutions company because I knew the industry well after having worked in it for several years, and I possessed the skills necessary to find talent. It was right up my alley! So, sure, was it a risk to start my own company as a Latina in my mid-20s? Of course! But it was one that was made with deep thought and planning. I knew what problems I wanted to solve, I knew what the market needed and was demanding, and I saw a way to et myself and my business apart from the competition.

Are You In It for the Long Haul or to Cash out?

One of the biggest problems successful entrepreneurs face is when they hit that first level of success. Often it comes after years of 80-hour work weeks, high-stress, pivots, and false dawns. Suddenly, you are seeing the rewards of all of that hard work and you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

For some people, selling the company and starting a new business seems like the best option. Many serial entrepreneurs have found enormous success with this model. But that is not how I chose to run Pinnacle and I think it’s set our business, our family, and the families of our associates up for lifelong success instead of momentary pleasure. I made the decision early on to reinvest profits back into the company and to keep control of 100% of the company’s destiny. I was in it for the long haul from the beginning. This has paid off when we’ve hit tough times and needed to tighten the belt and by reinvesting our profits, it kept us afloat in those lean years while also ensuring we had adequate infrastructure and investment in technology to scale when big opportunities came our way.

Pinnacle had great success in those first years. We didn’t struggle like so many start-ups, but instead of living “high on the hog,” we lived modestly and made sure to keep our principles in mind. Those tough times came and we were able to make it through and we continue to hit new highs two decades later because of those decisions.

That’s why it’s important to decide how you want to handle success before it even arrives. It might arrive quickly or it may take years of grinding. But when it comes, will you be prepared?

I hope these three questions help focus your mindset so that you are able to start a business with more clarity. I’d love to hear your favorite tips or the questions you ask yourself in the comments below or on social media!

To stay up-to-date on all the advice, news, and updates from me and Pinnacle Group, make sure to follow me on Medium, like my Facebook page, and join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram @NinaVaca.

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