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Special section 6 ways to get ahead in the office or get out

Think you've got what it takes to be the next big thing? There are people who can help you on your way.

So you want to be your own boss ...

You want to own your own business, but you're not sure where to start. Programs exist where young entrepreneurs can meet like-minded business partners and corporate sponsors.

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You may have heard about the two UCLA grads who founded Yahoo! and became multimillionaires before they hit age 30. Nice story, but it takes much more than having a great idea to start a successful business. So how can you tell if you've got what it takes to be your own boss? We talked to some business experts to find out just what qualities an aspiring entrepreneur should possess.

SCORE, Counselors to America's Small Business, has compiled the following list of questions to help you determine whether you have the basic qualities of an entrepreneur:

Are you ready to be your own boss?
Is my product or service different from others on the market?
Do I have adequate financial resources or access to capital?
Do I have management experience to help run a business?
Am I ready to commit to the demands of owning a business?
Can I take responsibility and make effective decisions?
Am I in good health with the stamina for the job ahead?
Do I have the encouragement and support of my family?

Mentors wanted: Yoda and Obi-Wan need not apply

The spirit of entrepreneurship is embedded in the culture. Not only do hundreds of thousands of Americans jump into business ownership every year but talent from all over the globe comes to the country in pursuit of entrepreneurial success. Despite the abysmal survival rate for small businesses, the U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that of the 671,800 business with employees started in 2005 only 44 percent will likely survive four years, owning a business is part of the American dream.

Many individuals decide to start their own business because they long for freedom and independence. Unfortunately, not everyone has the right qualities to call their own shots. Or, they may lack the experience and perspective that would enable them to make the right choices for their burgeoning enterprise. That's where a business mentor comes in. "Most people who are going into business have no idea how to do it," says Bob Shephard, district director of the central and northern Florida SCORE district.

"An entrepreneur is probably very good at what he or she is doing in their particular area but it's a far cry from being able to run a business," he says.

No matter how much you know, you can't know everything. When they started Dream Dinners in 2002, Stephanie Allen, a caterer, and Tina Kuna, a business manager for an automotive computer company, had no idea what they were getting into -- an overwhelming success as it turned out. "Franchising ended up being the right move to make after hearing the demands from people who wanted to do the same thing across the country," says Kuna. "That was another huge learning curve, we were fortunate to find a franchise firm in Seattle to help us grow and build this franchise system."

"There's just so much to learn. We try to surround ourselves with people who know more than we do in their areas of expertise," she says. "There's no way that Stephanie and I can know it all. To get us to the next level we bring on professionals in their areas."

 
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