Susan Solovic, The Small Business Expert is an award-winning entrepreneur, an attorney, a New York Times best-selling author, a media personality and a highly sought after keynote speaker.

Ready to Escape the Cube? A Checklist

Ready to Escape the Cube? A Checklist

Consider these two adages: “Failing to plan is planning to fail” and “He who hesitates is lost.”

In a way they capture the tensions that pull at would-be entrepreneurs. When you first start dreaming about your personal “escape the cube” scenario, you begin living out this paradox. You know you must act – all great entrepreneurs are people of action. But at the same time you understand the cold hard pavement that lines the startup world is littered with yesterday’s failures and burnouts.

What you need to understand is that any successful escape from the cube is powered by a fuel that’s a personal blend of passion and practicality. No one can adequately provide you with a checklist that measures your passion; you’ll have to dig deeply down and judge that yourself. However, when it comes to the practical matters, itemizing becomes more feasible.

You don’t need to tick off every item on the following lists, but by the end of this inventory you should have a fair idea of whether or not you’re ready for your escape as well as have a feel for the areas that need your attention.


  • You’re the office expert or go-to person. This shows you have established authority and speaks to your expertise and your positioning.
  • You have the contacts you’ll need…or at least most of them. These can be personal contacts or professional contacts. Some successful entrepreneurs create contacts via an online community before they launch their startup.
  • You have confidence in yourself and so does your family. As a general rule, successful start-ups have spouses and/or domestic partners who are extremely supportive of entrepreneurial efforts. If yours isn’t, be warned. Personal turmoil can distract you from your business goals and may cause you to doubt yourself and your business idea.
  • You have sufficient financial resources to make it through the lean startup period. Don’t assume as soon as you open the door for business, the cash will start rolling in. I suggest you double the period of time you think it will take you to establish a positive cash flow for your new venture. As a rule of thumb, your business will lose money the first year, break even the second and begin to show a profit in the third.
  • You know your strengths, and equally important, your weaknesses. This will tell you where you need to get help from others and start building your team. For example, you need to be a people person because in the beginning you are the business. If you don’t have people skills, you need a co-founder.
  • You’re a self-starter. Going solo can be an isolating and lonely experience, especially when you’re used to working in an office with other team members. Make sure you can motivate yourself and are comfortable with making decisions on your own.

Business Plan

  • You know how much market demand there will be for your product or service and it’s sufficient to support your business.
  • You have defined your minimal viable product (MVP). In other words, you have more than just an “idea.” Your MVP can be a service, by the way.
  • You know and understand the competition. Further, you know your unique selling point – the noticeable difference – that brings new value to the marketplace.
  • You know the cost of creating your product or service. For a physical product, you’ll need to deal with suppliers and manufacturers. For services, you’ll need to determine overhead, support and other costs particular to the service you plan to provide.
  • You know where your financing will come from. This may be a “big picture” view at the beginning, such as bootstrapping it for a while and then finding angel investors. Perhaps your MVP fits one of the popular “crowd funding” models.
  • You know how to reach your market. This relates to your contacts and your strengths/weaknesses items mentioned above. For example, if you have the technical savvy, you will probably need to hook up with a marketing guru who shares your vision.
  • You need to know where growth can come from. If you can’t identify any paths for growth, you may be painting yourself into a corner. When you have successfully completed Step A, what is Step B?

As I noted, these are a few of the items to consider if you’re dreaming about escaping your cube. I’ll conclude by saying, I was a c-suite executive in a Fortune 50 company and after escaping in 1995 I would never go back. There is nothing more rewarding that building your business dreams and taking control of your own destiny. Here is to your success.

Click Here to read the Archives of Susan's Articles

The information contained herein may not represent the views and opinions of Zions Bank or its affiliates and is intended for informational purposes. It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal, investment or business advice.