More than 33 million workers have filed for unemployment since the COVID-19 virus began. Many more don’t know if or when they will be able to return to their old jobs. They are waiting with great anticipation for a ground hog to poke his head out and tell us we won’t have six more weeks of social distancing. The new normal is turning out to be a lot more new and a lot less normal. People are worried about their financial and professional future.

So, while many of us are staying at home pondering our future and watching Netflix, this may be a good time to ask “are you ready for a career change and become an entrepreneur?”

A friend of mine defines an entrepreneur as someone who takes a prospective hire out into the country to a hill overlooking a great estate, points to the mansion, the swimming pool, the tennis courts and says, “If you come work for me and work your butt off, someday all this will be mine”.

I know that this is not a great time to start a business especially when you don’t know when or where your next check will be coming. But it is a great time to think about whether you want to be an employee the rest of your life or do you want to own your own business, be your own boss and work with people who have the same commitment and passion as you do for creating something new. If you don’t love your work enough to have a good time, then maybe you are showing up at the wrong job,

Being an entrepreneur is not an easy path to follow. The dream of being an entrepreneur is wonderful but the road to getting there is not filled with swimming pools and tennis courts.

Just because you have a man crush on Richard Branson and shark tank is your favorite TV show that won’t make you an entrepreneur. Nor will your idea of creating jalapeno ice cream or coffee toothpaste get you that mansion you dream of. Ideas are like rabbits, its great that people have them but when they multiply you better have a plan of action.

Coming up with ideas is the easy part. People have them all the time. Turning them into a business opportunity takes commitment, passion, risk, creativity, and hard work.

It reminds me of the man who was always talking about his “million dollar” ideas. One day he goes to a fortuneteller to foresee his future. The fortuneteller looks into a crystal ball and says, “You will be poor and unhappy until you are 50 years old.”

“Then what will happen asks the man.”

The fortuneteller replies, “you will get used to it.”

Entrepreneurs do not get used to the way things are. That’s why 627,000 new businesses start each year. Some people will call entrepreneurs crazy and naïve. But to others they are problem solvers, trailblazers, innovators, visionaries, and risk takers.

My first business opportunity came in the early 1970’s before I had ever heard the term entrepreneur. Four friends and I decided we wanted to open a theater. The business idea was secondary to the idea that we wanted to have a place to perform our craft. I wanted to be the stand-up comedian in the group.

It did not take long before I realized I did not have a critical skill of being a comedian. I wasn’t very funny. I left the troop and went on to be a government employee where the bar for comedy was much lower.

Since that time the passion for becoming an entrepreneur grew and I have started three businesses, none very successful, but all of them brought me great joy.

In retirement I have had an opportunity to reflect on my career, and I realize that there are a lot of similarities between becoming a stand-up comedian and creating a startup.. As David Ogilvey , the father of advertising said, “the best ideas appear as humor”.

Jerry Seinfeld said that to be a comedian, you must ask yourself four questions.

Do your friends and family think you are funny?

Do strangers think you are funny?

Will strangers pay money to hear you make them laugh?

Will strangers tell their friends how you made them laugh?

If you answered yes to all those questions, congratulations, you may become the next Jerry Seinfeld.

To consider if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, substitute the word “funny” for the word “idea”.

Do your friends and family think you have a good idea?

Do strangers think you have a good idea?

Will strangers pay money for your idea?

Will strangers tell their friends about your great idea?

Startups, unlike standups don’t have to answer yes to all those questions.

However, if your friends and family don’t think it’s a good idea, I would not let that discourage you. After all, if Ms. Fields had listened to her first husband when he said that a cookie store is a bad idea and that Americans like crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies, then my cookie jar would be empty right now. Your friends and family may be your best critics and their comments and suggestions can help improve your idea. But I am sure that Ms. Fields is glad she did ditch her ex and moved on with a different husband and a different cookie.

If strangers don’t think you have a good idea, you would not be reading this blog in the comfort of your pajamas. If you recall, Ken Olsen President, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, told Bill Gates in 1977 that there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. If Bill Gates would have listened to that suggestion, he may still be in his garage as an auto mechanic. Sharing your idea with strangers will require a thick skin but ideas that go through product testing, focus groups, surveys and market research have great value in improving your product.

After you have considered peoples constructive suggestions and made improvements, getting strangers to pay for your idea to come to market has become a lot easier with the creation of crowd funding. There are three primary types of crowd funding, donation-based, rewards-based, and equity crowd funding. Exploding kittens, a $20 adult card game crafted for “people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats” tapped into the growing board game market and raised ten million dollars before producing any product. Crowd funding is not only a way to sell your product to dreamers but also an excellent way to attract investors.

And finally, the true test of being an entrepreneur is whether you can add value to your product. You want people to continue to buy your product and tell their friends so you create new customers. Word of mouth is the cheapest form of marketing you can have. As an entrepreneur, adding value may include faster service, better quality, increased convenience, adapting to changing lifestyles, and even solving different problems. By selling value added products and services, the entrepreneur can increase the competitive advantage over competitors.

One other similarity between comedians and startups is that people believe their success was meteoric. It’s like Nyquil, the moonshine of medicine, fast acting and long lasting. After all we are in an electronic age where everything takes place quickly. That could not be any further from the truth.

Even if you answer yes to those four questions, sudden success will still take years and maybe even decades. Behind every successful standup or start up are years of hard work and developing a routine or product.

There are three types of people in the world. Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that wonder what the hell is happening. Entrepreneurs make things happen. They make things happen because they are willing to put the time and energy into making this world a happy and better place. Only then will you be able to take a prospective hire out into the country to a hill overlooking your great estate.