There are lots of people out there thinking about starting a small business, and tons of great ideas, but few people actually go out and do it. So many people think and think about it until all of a sudden they're fifty-something, still with that great idea, but no business.
There's no doubt it takes a special type of person to be an entrepreneur. It's definitely not for the faint of heart. It takes desire to succeed, courage, perseverance and a great deal of will power to continue to work at it in the face of the setbacks you'll inevitably have to deal with. But what else does it take to be a successful small business owner?
Of course, it takes technical skills. That goes without saying. And, you can't just be good at what you do. You need to be very good at it before you even think about starting your small business. So, assuming you have those technical skills, what else do successful entrepreneurs have in common?
I would think being decisive, self-disciplined and a self-starter have to be a couple of the top traits. If you want to own a business so you can stay in bed in the morning or you think you might not have to work forty hours a week, you might want to stick with your 9 to 5 job. The truth is, you'll be working far more than forty hours a week for quite awhile, and most often with very little money to show for it.
There won't be anyone telling you what to do, how to do it and when it needs to be done (except for your clients of course, and it seems to me they often want things done now!). So, you'll need to be able to make decisions, and be disciplined enough to work at it every day, no matter how discouraged you might be.
And, the fact that you're your own boss means you should be self-directing too. It also means you should be able to prioritize and plan well, meet deadlines and be able to work until the job is done, whether that takes fifteen minutes or eighteen hours a day.
How well do you deal with stress? How do you deal with uncertainty? Successful entrepreneurs need to deal with both well. Running a business is stressful at the best of times, and can be extremely stressful when things aren't going well. And things are rarely certain. That big client you have that you think is so loyal could simply decide to go elsewhere for no reason that's apparent to you.
Are you able to make short term sacrifice for long term gain? It might be really tempting, for example to take the first thousand dollars your companies earns and spend it on clothes or on your house or your car, but is that necessarily the best thing for your small business? Or should you be leaving the money in the company and using it to build your business?
Along with those technical skills we talked about earlier, most entrepreneurs have to be a jack of all trades, at least from the beginning. Let's say you build the best darn widget in the country. Assuming you already leased space and have all your tools, the first thing you might want to do is find suppliers for the parts you'll need to put it together. Then you'll have to negotiate terms with them, so now you're a purchasing agent as well as a manufacturer.
Customers aren't going to come and find you, so you have to figure out ways to let people know who you are, where you are and what you can do for them. That means you also need to know something about marketing. You're required to keep proper records, so you're a bookkeeper too. And you're responsible for all your small business' financial decisions, so you're going to have to know something about finance. You'll probably have to answer the phones and make appointments, which means you're also a secretary.
Since you probably won't possess all those skills and you probably can't afford to hire someone to do most of those jobs, you're going to have to be willing to learn new things and be able to pick them up quickly. You won't see any direct money for these jobs either. Are you willing to put in the hours it takes to learn these skills and perform them without seeing immediate results?
Finally, procrastination and owning a business don't seem to go well together. If you're the type of person who tends to put off until tomorrow what can be done today, you might not be suited to owning your own business.
Nobody is going to be the perfect entrepreneur. I doubt there's anyone who has all the personality traits we've talked about. But, you should be willing to take an honest look at yourself. You should have some of the traits I've mentioned and you need to know how to compensate for areas where you're weak, but that's a subject for another day.
Robert Browning said "The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It's as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer."
I think he's probably right, so what are you waiting for? The first step is making the decision. Stop just thinking about it and just do it. Don't wait for tomorrow or next week or next year. Do it today.
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