Can I Start My Own Small Business?

Can you start a small business? Of course you can. Anyone can start a small business.

Can YOU start a SUCCESSFUL small business?

Ah, that’s another question altogether. One of the hardest things a small business consultant has to do is tell someone they are not the right kind of person to own and run their own business. When someone asks me for help starting a business I always ask them “so tell me, why do you want to start a business anyway?”

Lets examine some answers I often hear:

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“I want to get rich quick”. You may, in time, get rich but I can almost guarantee it will not be quick. In fact statistics show that 80% of all small businesses fail within the first five years and never make a profit, and those that do make it, do not make a profit for several years. The best you can count on for the first several years is probably paying yourself something less than you are making now.

“I don’t want to work as hard (or as long) as I do now”. You’re dreaming! You don’t know what working hard and long is until you start your own business.

“I’m a good hairdresser (or whatever) and that’s all I want to do, but I want to do it for myself.” Forget it. Plan to spend more time on things that don’t have anything to do with hairdressing than you ever will actually working on clients

“I can’t get a good job.” Stop and think about it. The very reasons you can’t get and hold a good job – lack of education or training, lack of people skills, inability to get along with others, lack of self discipline, etc. – may be reasons to suspect you will be less than successful at your own business because, believe me, with few exceptions you will need these skills to succeed.

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“I want to build a business that my whole family can share.” Stop right there. Running a family business – without destroying family relationships – can be one of the hardest things you will ever do. What are going to be the responsibilities – and compensation – of each family member? Who is going to make the final decisions? Do different generations of the family share the same values and dream the same dream as you do? Do they even want to be involved or would they rather do their own thing?

“I want to be the boss!” – this could be a good reason – but only if you have a good business idea, the resources to get started, and you know you could manage the business and it’s employees efficiently and profitably and you – and your family – understand and accept the time, effort and money it will take to make it happen.

So — I’m suggesting you examine your motives before you jump into business. Having said that, there are many good reasons for going into business for yourself. Here are just a few:

You are a true entrepreneur, with the attributes to organize and assume the risk of a business or enterprise, have a business idea or dream, and the passion and desire to make that dream become a profitable business reality. This is your life, this is who you are.

You have a good business idea that you are convinced could earn you and your family a much better living than you could otherwise provide working for someone else.

You must work a more flexible schedule than an employer would permit, or must work from a certain location such as your home, because of family or physical reasons.

You have bumped into the ceiling at your current job and can’t get your employer to give you more responsibility (and compensation) or the position you are qualified for, and you feel you must “go it on your own” to achieve success in your career or profession.

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You have retired and find yourself becoming bored with life or just in need of the stimulation of business (I’ve gone through that – twice) or your finances have changed such that you need additional income. If your prior experience and skills are such that you can apply them to a business idea this can be an ideal situation for starting again in a part or full time business.

There are of course, many other good reasons for wanting to start your own business and, if it’s for you, it can be the most exciting, satisfying and rewarding thing you have ever done.

So lets take a look at the kind of person most apt to succeed at starting a business:

Someone with a dream – but not a dreamer. Dreams don’t become reality until you get off your backside and take some action, so you’ve got to be an action oriented self-starter. Don’t kid yourself, nothing is going to happen until you make it happen.

A master planner / organizer. You are going to have to take that dream or business idea and get it down on paper – ultimately into a Business Plan. If you can’t organize your thoughts in order to express yourself, even getting your hands around that dream is going to be a problem, much less turning it into a business plan. Having trouble here – get some help. Contact SCORE. While there are many people who can help you organize your thoughts and begin to write out your Business Plan, SCORE is an organization of volunteers (get that – free help) who work with the Small Business Administration to help Small Business Persons (or “would be” Small Business Persons) needing some assistance. That’s my first plug for one of my favorite organizations.

A Self-Starter. As noted above, nothing is likely to happen until you make it happen.

A Self Confident Positive Thinker. You won’t believe the number of people who are going to pooh-pooh your ideas or tell you “you can’t do that” (and even if thy don’t say it, they are thinking it). Even your friends and relatives are going to be skeptical. You’ve got to believe in your idea and know you can make it happen.

A Decision Maker. You are going to have to make a lot of decisions under pressure and often without a lot of time for research. And – you’ve got to make the right decision most of the time

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A People Person. From your suppliers, to your banker and your accountant, your (someday) employees and – most important – your customers or clients you are going to be interacting with people throughout your business day. If you are don’t have good people skills forget about going into business for yourself and work for someone who does.

Someone With Technical Knowledge Of The Business, But Not Necessarily A Technician. You may think that having knowledge about the business and the technical skills to do the job yourself would be the most important thing about running a business? You are wrong! In the beginning you are going to spend – at best – 50% of your time on actually doing the technical work of the business and 50% on organizing, managing, marketing, etc. etc. And guess what – as your business grows you are going to have to spend even more time on the non-technical stuff.

The right idea – The right reason – The right person.

So do you fit the mold? Is this person you?

If so, GO FOR IT! A good start would be getting some help and a good source of help would be SCORE. SCORE is an affiliate of the Small Business Administration that provides FREE business counselling to persons wanting to start their own business. Contact SCORE at and follow the link to your local SCORE chapter where you can request FREE, confidential, personal counselling help to get you started in planning your own small business.