Many of us have thought about running our own businesses at one time or another. It’s enticing to think of devoting our careers to something we’re passionate about, investing in ourselves instead of making someone else rich. It’s an attractive idea, but there are numerous things to consider before deciding to be your own boss. Here are some important things you may not know about running a small business.
8 Things They Don’t Tell You About Running a Small Business
1. You’ll Need to Maintain Focus on Yourself
Whether you will be running your business alone or managing a small team of employees, it’s very important to maintain ongoing efforts to develop your skills as a business leader. As an entrepreneur, you are both employer and employee, so it’s important to maintain good personal habits as would any other employee. This is particularly important if you will be managing a team of employees, even if it’s just a few people.
Employees tend to follow the example of leadership, both indirectly and through direct means such as coaching, training, or instructing. If you want your team to perform well and be part of a positive work environment, you have to be the one to set this standard. This means continually being on the lookout for new ways to enhance your business acumen and leadership abilities, as well as taking steps to maintain physical and mental well-being.
2. It’s Important to Promote Yourself
When you first start a business, almost no one knows who you are or what you do. It’s up to you to get the promotional ball rolling, especially in the beginning when you don’t have numerous customer testimonies to spread the word. There’s obviously a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but it’s important to transmit a certain level of belief in both yourself and the business you are trying to promote.
This makes many entrepreneurs uncomfortable, as they fear being seen as little more than shameless self-promoters who are out to make a buck. Understand that promotion is an essential component of running a small business, so you will need to find a happy medium that achieves this without making you feel that it goes too far. Remember that customers respond to someone who truly believes in the product or service they are offering.
3. It’s More Work Than You Think
Most of us realize that running a successful business is not easy, but it’s simply impossible to imagine just how much work it takes. Many dream of having their own business so they can set their own hours and take vacations whenever they feel like it. The reality is that having your own business will likely require more hours than you’ve ever worked, with higher levels of stress and anxiety than you’ve ever experienced.
Thankfully, the payoff for all your hard work is potentially greater than you’ve ever experienced, both in terms of financial reward and personal satisfaction. Further, many entrepreneurs have no trouble working 12 or more hours a day if they’re doing something they enjoy. Anything worth achieving is going to require great effort, and it’s important to keep this in mind as you consider the amount of time and effort you’ll have to dedicate to your business.
4. Learn to Delegate
Even if you are your company’s only employee, it may not be the best idea to do everything yourself. Indeed, there are probably certain tasks that you are not very good at, or don’t enjoy doing. Be open to entrusting these tasks to others, whether that means outsourcing them to specialists or delegating them to other members of your team.
Doing this will allow you to focus your efforts on other key areas to help build the business. Not only that, it allows you to select the people best suited to perform the tasks in question. Be realistic in assessing what you are best at, and what you truly enjoy doing. Consider hiring employees who possess talents that complement your skill set.
5. You Will Have to Make Sacrifices
Running a small business will require a tremendous portion of your daily time and energy, so much so that there will be little time for anything else. This means that at least one thing you currently enjoy will inevitably be sacrificed, from time with family and friends to personal hobbies and leisure activities. There are only so many hours in a day, and your business is like a baby in constant need of diligent care.
You will have to take a hard look at your personal priorities, and you will probably have to revisit this on a regular basis. Spending quality time with family and friends is obviously a high priority for most of us, but almost anything else in your personal life is likely to take a back seat at one time or another. Prepare yourself by assessing your lifestyle and making a decision about what is most important.
6. You’ll Need More Customers Than You Think
When we have an idea for a business, one of our first thoughts is often how our close friends and family will be our customers. While this may be true, even the largest personal networks likely won’t be enough to sustain a business over the long term. It’s definitely an advantage to start with these personal networks, as they help kick start sales and spread your product or service to their extended circles.
Be prepared to invest in ongoing marketing efforts to attract new customers and build a sustainable business. It can be easy to overlook this necessity, especially as infrastructural and other costs start to build. But you must commit an adequate amount of your monthly budget to market and advertising activities to keep up with the competition and ensure your company’s success.
7. You Will Have to Ask for Money
Even the most thorough business plans underestimate the amount of capital needed to start and run a successful business. Whatever amount of money you started your business with, it’s almost certain that you will have to ask for more. This can be incredibly difficult, especially if you have to ask friends or family as many entrepreneurs end up doing at some point. It’s best to be mentally prepared for this and focus on how you’ll handle it.
Rather than succumb to the stress of asking for money, devise a plan for what you will do with the money and how you intend to pay it back. This provides the loaner with confidence that they’re making a safe investment, whether it’s a bank or your favorite uncle. Put a report together that illustrates things like financial projections and go-to-market strategies. This will not only put them at ease but keep you on track for repayment.
8. You May Have to Tear Up Your Business Plan
Before launching your business, it’s important to dedicate as much time and resources as possible to develop a comprehensive business plan. This will sharpen your goals and help guide you in making numerous operational decisions, especially in the critical early days of the business. Not only that, you will almost certainly need a strong business plan to qualify for business loans, early-stage financing, or even to attract partners and employees.
Regardless of how much effort you put into your business plan, you may have to reevaluate that plan once your business is up and running. The marketplace is always changing – customer tastes change, new competitors arrive, and technology becomes outdated. Managing a successful business may require adapting your business plan to these shifting market dynamics, and this may happen multiple times over your company’s life.
These are some of the key things to consider if you’re thinking about starting a small business. It may require a lot more work and sacrifice than you imagine, but the rewards can be incredible if you do it right. Check out the David Vs. Goliath podcast for more information and great tips for running a successful business.