Rohan Gamble ... founder of financial comparison website Mozo and former head of Virgin Money in Australia.
When should I take the plunge? If you don't want to die wondering, you just have to try it. But you need to have a clear vision and be able to intimately visualise the business you want to create. Starting a business is 24/7 and you need so much focus to make it work, I don't think you can do it part time. So it's better to finish your job and then start the business.
How important is a clear business plan? The best thing to do first is lock yourself away writing a business plan. The more thinking you do upfront, the easier it will be to implement, because once you get into a business the day-to-day things such as cash flow take over and diminish the creative part in your brain. You need to really go to the endpoint and work backwards, visualise what the business is going to be in five or 10 years, and then articulate that, first in words for the business plan and then in speaking to people. If you can't do that, you won't be able to hire staff and you won't attract any investors.
Where can I find help? The best advice is from other people who have gone solo. Anyone that's on the fringe, such as a professional adviser, might be useful, but they haven't done it. One of the real skills of an entrepreneur, particularly in the early days, is to recognise what you're good at and where you need help. Take people you respect in their fields out to lunch and ask for their opinions, getting some free advice. If you do it as a structured exercise it's amazing who you know.
If you say I'm thinking about going out alone next year, it's smart to set up that network now. Start expanding your LinkedIn profile, start meeting people for coffee without an agenda. You never know where the answers will come from.
Where can I get funding? I wouldn't go to either banks or venture capitalists in the early days. The trick is getting the money from private individuals. You need to keep control of the business because you're the only one who's got the vision. As soon as you get venture capitalists or banks involved, you're getting corporate machines involved and that gets in the way of the entrepreneurial process. It's all about getting money from yourself, from family or friends, from private investors. You don't want to recreate the corporate rat race in your own business.
How helpful is management literature? My personal view is that real-life experience is better than any books. The people with the most interesting stories are so busy they haven't got time to write them down. The only exception is probably Sir Richard Branson, but books like his will give you the appetite and confidence to do it rather than being a how-to guide.
When should you cut your losses? It's important to have milestones and understand when you've reached them or when you haven't and need to change. You should be able to really see some genuine runs on the board within a year of getting going.
Rohan Gamble is founder of financial comparison website Mozo and former head of Virgin Money in Australia.