Want to Start a Business? First, You Need a Reality Check

Busy bizmanDo you want to start a small business? You’re in good company—many surveys show most American adults have seriously considered becoming entrepreneurs.

What motivates people to launch their own businesses? Reasons range from wanting to control your life by being your own boss to wishing for better work/life balance to being so passionate about a hobby, you think you can turn it into a business.

While these (and numerous other reasons, of course) are all valid, it’s important to do a reality check before launching. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. If you want to be your own boss: As an entrepreneur, you won’t have a boss—you’ll have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of them (if you’re lucky). They’re called customers, and you’ll need to please them just as much as (or more than) the boss in your day job. Make sure you have the patience to deal with customers and their various perspectives. It’s often hard to remember the old business adage, “The customer is always right.”
  2. If you want a better work/life balance: Yes, as an entrepreneur, you might get more flexibility to make your own schedule. On the other hand, you might not, because you not only need to satisfy those customers, you also need to do all the behind-the-scenes work of marketing your business, sending out invoices, reconciling your books and hundreds of other tasks. Especially in the startup stage, days lounging on the beach will be few and far between, balanced by things like working on holidays and sacrificing vacation time.
  3. If you want to turn your hobby into a business: The fun of working on a hobby is a lot different than the reality of making it profitable. For instance, if you love baking pies and want to start a pie shop, know that your business will be about 10 percent baking pies and 90 percent marketing, managing, hiring and juggling finances—not to mention sweeping the shop and taking out the trash. Yes, you can find partners or employees to handle the business end, but this might not be affordable at first.

Don’t get me wrong—I love being my own boss. Despite all the challenges mentioned above, starting my business was the smartest thing I’ve done. But I see too many people get into business without knowing what to expect. Make sure you’re prepared for the realities of startup and are ready to meet the challenges with enthusiasm.


Photo courtesy: iStock/Thinkstock

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