By Beth Borrego / Published September 2014
Entrepreneurs all over the world have heard the myriad of reasons not to go into business for themselves. It’s easy to warn someone who has the desire to build a dream not to do it. Everyone reading this has probably heard one or more of these reasons: It’s too risky, you’ll have to go into debt, you’ll lose sleep and wreck your health, your social life will suffer, and you won’t have personal or family time, and the list goes on. But even with each of these reasons stacked up and staring you in the eyes, entrepreneurs of all ages are still attracted to the world of small startup businesses. So the next time your nerves are on edge or you doubt that there are equally as many positive reasons to venture into business, reread this.
Number one on the hit parade is true. Yes, initially you’ll work longer hours for less pay. But you’re building the foundation for the business, and this is something all new businesses inevitably go through. Make sure you are funded so that you’ll be able to meet your basic living expenses during this time. Building a new business is an incredible feeling, and something to be proud of. When you build a small business based upon your own vision, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that you were able to execute it successfully.
Being a small business owner means being your own boss. You won’t be getting fired, or laid off and that’s a comfort that you don’t have if you work for someone else. However, you do shoulder the responsibility for ensuring your business remains afloat and is able to pay yourself and your employees, who over time become an extremely valuable asset. There is no room for laziness during the course of a normal business day, not if you want your business to thrive.
Whenever I tell someone about our business, they always want to know what it is the business does, and then they ask if it’s easy. It seems that there are many stereotyped perceptions surrounding business ownership, involving lots of time off, short hours, and time on the golf course. The truth of it is that it takes hard work, long hours, and sacrifice, but it also allows you flexibility in other ways. You won’t need permission to go to your child’s dance recital or little league game, and your company can proudly sponsor a school activity. Your business can be passed down to the next generation, which is something to be proud of too.
Everything that you do as an entrepreneur will affect your personal life. You may begin struggling, but determined to succeed. Eventually your drive, ambition, and dedicated self-discipline will yield both personal and professional results. Those with poor self-discipline will quickly learn that they must change their bad habits or risk losing the business they are trying to keep afloat. This commitment to self-discipline will also benefit your personal life and relationships. A commitment to excellence and self-discipline is always a great thing to strive for.
There are also tax benefits to owning a small business, but anyone venturing into the waters of small business ownership is urged to consult a CPA. Typical write-offs may include expenses like travel, food, phone bills, uniforms, portions of car and truck payments, and the list goes on. Make sure to ask your accountant what the best company structure is for your particular business, and make sure you understand the implications of it. It’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages of Corporations, LLCs, Sole Proprietorships, and so on. To make sure you are doing the right thing for your particular business, talk to your accountant or to a lawyer.
Donating time, money, or resources to local charities and to your community may not be exclusive to small business owners, but it’s definitely a benefit. Sponsoring a charity or a youth sports team for example is something that benefits everyone. For many, this is perhaps the best part of being a small business owner. It’s easy to see that small business owners experience things that those who remain employed by others do not. Your employees may also find it very rewarding to be involved in a company event benefitting those less fortunate. Most people feel good about helping others.
One of the most valuable things for a new, small business owner to have is a mentor. Young businesses receiving guidance from a mentor or mentors stand a better chance at avoiding costly mistakes. Established business owners are often very generous with their time and mentor newer business owners out of gratitude for the mentoring they received early on themselves. There is nothing quite like receiving a thank you note from a new business owner who found value from something you shared, and that may even have saved them considerable amounts of time and money. Many of today’s professionals consider mentorship to be one of the most rewarding parts of their career.
Entrepreneurs need to be among other like-minded entrepreneurs from time to time. Industry conventions allow small business owners to meet one another, exchange stories, and strategize and problem solve together, as well as to validate that other owners face the same challenges you do. Conventions, trade shows, and roundtable events are places where we learn from each other’s experiences. Your circle of professional friends and acquaintances will grow throughout your career as many business owners need to lean on others as they face their toughest challenges. We all need help occasionally, and it’s the smart professionals—who are driven to succeed no matter what—that ask for it.
Over time, as you gain knowledge and expertise in your business’s area of specialty, you may begin to be looked upon as an expert. For some, this may mean writing a blog or articles for publication while others might choose to write a book or develop classes to instruct those who are just starting out. It may even mean providing professional consulting services or being called to testify in court cases. The field is wide open and full of possibilities for those who eventually and after many years of hard work acquire this status.
As small business owners begin to succeed, many are recognized by their community, their peers, and by organizations they belong to. Awards and certificates of appreciation and recognition are often given to business owners who have demonstrated excellence in the eyes of their peers or the community they serve. After all the hard work, long hours, and sacrifice, it’s a nice feeling to have it recognized by those who see and appreciate it. If there comes a time in your professional career where this happens for you, just remember as you take a bow to thank those who have helped you along the way.
When people ask you how you learned all that you now know, well, that’s really hard to answer. The knowledge you’ll amass over the course of many years will be hard to boil down to just a sentence or two in casual conversation. But rest assured that when you are asked that question, you’ll smile as you take a meaningful trip down memory lane, leading you all the way back to day one.
We can’t forget perhaps the biggest reason for starting up your own small business, the reason that drives so many of us to work so very hard and to make the sacrifices that we do: financial independence. This is perhaps the biggest motivator of all, and, at least initially, perhaps the most elusive. How do you define financial independence? Perhaps it’s building up a retirement fund, paying off your mortgage early, or being able to pay cash for a new car. Whatever your personal definition may be, planning it out from the beginning is the best way to reach it. Set your goals high, and then do the hard work, evaluating your progress periodically to ensure you’re on track to achieve them.
Every time you start up a small business, you get to invent something new. While many of the challenges you’ll face will be the same, there will certainly be new ones as well. For many, one business is more than enough to keep them busy for the duration of their career. But every now and then, a compelling opportunity may present itself and you’ll find yourself beginning a new business adventure. For example, your company may acquire a competitor or a business that offers services you wish to add to your offerings, or perhaps you’ll open a new location.
At some point, just about every small business owner feels as though he or she is going to achieve and even surpass all of their business and personal goals and then take on the rest of the world’s problems. Entrepreneurs dream big dreams, make big plans, and take big risks. There’s something very motivating and energizing about being in charge of your own destiny. Just remember to keep focused on your business, and don’t let others distract you from what matters most; the goals you have already set for your business and for yourself.
Perhaps the most satisfying milestone you’ll get to witness as an employer is the personal growth and success of one of your employees. American small business owners create jobs and support not just their own family but their employees’ families as well. If that doesn’t make you feel good about being a responsible adult, then I don’t know what will. As you train and nurture your staff, providing them with opportunities and feedback, not only are you gaining a valuable asset, but you’ll get to see just how much it means to each of them as they work hard each day. You’ll see each of them facing problems and thinking on their feet, keeping the company in mind as they proudly represent not just another place of employment, but a company where they are proud to come to work each day. You’ll watch your employees take pride in their work as they strive to become successful, and you’ll see them form friendships. As a small business owner, you’ll be responsible for creating jobs and for seeing to it that those you hire have an opportunity to succeed. It’s a satisfying feeling to know that when you collect your paycheck, others are also collecting a check and that the check they collect is supporting a family other than your own. The business you build allows others to fulfill their dreams through financial security and job stability. Only an entrepreneur ever gets to experience that extremely rewarding feeling.
Once your business begins to become an established, recognized brand, you’ll begin to receive brand name recognition, which is a very rewarding feeling. After all, you’ll have worked hard to get to that point. You’ll smile each and every time someone says they have heard of your business or knows of family, friends, or neighbors who have used it before. And of all of the reasons listed above, the most important one of all for you to start up your small business is the one that is on the top of your personal list. Just remember, there are no rainbows with pots of gold at the end, and it’s not all sunshine and cute bunnies. Owning a business takes hard, dedicated work. Growing a small business to the point of becoming successful and recognized with repeat business is extremely rewarding and should be a natural goal. It’s hard work, but it is worth all of the personal time, energy, money, headache, and heartache that goes into it.