I was recently asked to be the guest speaker at a SLC SCORE monthly meeting. I was honored to speak at a monthly meeting of extremely successful local business owners that I admire. They wanted me to talk about being a scholar in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. During the meeting the SCORE chapter chairman stood up to make some announcements. During the announcements he said something that made the whole room chuckle including myself. He said, "We get a lot of people that tell us they want to start a small business for more flexibility, more money, less hours and no boss breathing down their neck!" That made me laugh to myself a bit and I noticed most everyone else was also chuckling. I think I had those thoughts when I started my own business but soon found out the reality. So are those ideas crazy? What is the reality of starting your own small business?
Many small business owners start their own business with the idea that they will get a ton of flexibility in their lives. Sure, that is true to a degree but you have to be very careful and maintain your focus, especially when you are just starting up. If starting a small business were so easy then everyone would do it, right? Believe me having the flexibility to take my dog for a walk, hit the gym or go for a few ski runs during my day is a huge part of why I am in business. However, I am very sure to stay focused and make that time up to both my business and myself. If you find that you are constantly giving yourself flexibility in your small business then you will never get anything done and you may put your business in jeopardy of failing. As a small business owner take the perk of flexibility, just don't take it too far.
You can definitely make more money as a small business owner than you might while working for someone else, but that is not a guarantee. The reality is you may be really good at your job, but terrible at being in business on your own. Running a successful small business is not easy and it is not for everyone. There is a reason that some small business owners are successes and others are failures. If you are holding your breath waiting for the magic answer of how to successfully run a business please breathe normally because I don't have it. I would imagine some of the reasons that some people succeed are drive, luck and that ability to differentiate their business from the competition. However, I know one thing is certain; no business owner succeeds without a genuine passion for what they do. You can't fake that you are passionate about your small business and what you deliver as a product or service. Follow your passion and the money will eventually come if you are driven and believe in what you are offering.
It is pretty laughable that people envision they will work less hours by starting their own small business. The combination of wanting more flexibility along with trying to work fewer hours is a recipe for failure. It is not realistic especially when you are just starting your business to think that you will miraculously work a light schedule. Many people have read the 4 hour work week and maybe that is what they think will happen when they start their own business. Unless you are regularly working 60+ hour weeks right now I would be prepared to take on a pretty hefty amount of hours when you start your business. Flexibility and a smaller work load may come with time but it will take a huge effort from you in the beginning to get it to that point.
Some entrepreneurs have that great story of how they quit their last job in a blaze of glory. Told the boss off, burned the bridge forever and headed into the world of being self-employed. I have had those bad experiences with having a boss. Turns out I just don't like working for someone else, I like working with people.
However, I will tell you that being the boss has its negatives. It is a lot tougher than it may seem to be the boss man in charge. You have to make very tough decisions. There is a fine line of being fair to your employees as well as being fair to yourself and your business. You can't be too greedy, but on the flipside being too gracious can negatively affect your business and your goals. Additionally you better be prepared to make some very high-level decisions as the boss. I guarantee you that running you own show won't be all roses all the time.
If you are thinking about starting your own business I'm not trying to persuade you to not go for it. I really just want to make sure you know what you are getting into and hope you are realistic with your expected outcome.
What advice would you add to those thinking of starting their own small business?