It is part of the American Dream: The desire to be your own boss, chase your true passions and leave your job behind to start your own company. While many people do this and love it, others find that this entrepreneurship stuff is not what they anticipated.
Is entrepreneurship right for you? Well, that depends on how you define “entrepreneur.” There are all sorts of descriptions:
- Dictionary.com: “A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk”
- The World Entrepreneurship Forum: “Creators of wealth and social justice”
- One successful entrepreneur (and my favorite definition): “A person willing to take a risk with money to make money”
Whatever definition you choose, the bottom line is that you better be ready for uncertainty because that is a big part of the gig. It takes a very specific and sometimes unique set of skills to be a small business owner. These include the willingness to take a risk, the ability to live without structure, the support of your loved ones, the disposition to work very hard and remain committed to your business, creativity, business skills, interpersonal skills, marketing skills and that’s just for starters.
In fact, according to a recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual studyexploring the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners across the country, maintaining a small business causes small business owners twice as much stress as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as much stress as raising children and more than four times as much as managing their own personal finances. However, despite challenges and sacrifices, the survey uncovered small business owners remain committed and optimistic about their future.
Don’t get me wrong - entrepreneurship is exciting and fun but other words equally describe the life of the small business person: nerve-wracking, liberating, challenging, joyous, overwhelming, and fulfilling; there’s a wide range of emotions and complexities tied to running a small business. So, how do you know if owning a business is right for you – if you have the DNA of a small business owner?
There are all sorts of self-assessment tests out there, but here is my no-frills, no-mistake entrepreneurship test that helps anyone see whether they have what it takes to be a small business owner:
Think about your job, its benefits, the consistent paycheck, the company health care plan, the boss – everything. Now think about leaving that job (for whatever reason) and its security, and starting your own business. How does it make you feel?
If the idea of starting your own business excites you more than it frightens you, then you are probably an entrepreneur. But if you are more scared than excited, you likely do not have the DNA of a small business owner. It’s that simple, and either answer is fine.
The important thing is that you be completely honest with yourself. There is no point in concluding you should be running your own business if in fact you should not be. Starting a business without the requisite fire in the belly and related business skills will likely cause you a lot of financial and emotional grief.
When did you realize that entrepreneurship was the best decision for you? What advice would you give to somebody who is looking to start their own business? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss