You love owning your small business—being your own boss. Perhaps you’re dreaming of starting a business one day. To help you reach your goals, you read everything you can about how to run a business (including this column!). You take small business management classes.
But some lessons you can’t learn until you’re actually at the helm of your company. Many surprise you. Here are nine unexpected aspects of owning your own business:
- It’s really hard to get customers. Your product or service is great—it truly is. It leaves the competition in the dust. Your prices are just right. But just because you’ve created something better or cheaper doesn’t mean customers will flock to your door. Whatever you have to do to reach and keep customers, you’ll have to work really hard at it. And keep at it.
- Success isn’t just about your product or service. Your competitor may sell an inferior product, but still succeed more than you. They may be better at marketing, customer service, money management, managing employees. A lot goes into business success beyond the quality of the product or service. So balance your weaknesses, and hire people who help you build a successful company, not just offer a great product or service.
- You develop ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Entrepreneurs, as a rule, have lots of great ideas. And small business owners wear many hats. All those ideas and responsibilities can easily drive you crazy. If you’re constantly going off in one direction after another, you’ll never be able to achieve success. But you can take steps to reign in your ADD. First, define your core business so you know what pays the bills. Then, spend at least the first half of the day attending to it.
- You can work to achieve social goals. Running a business doesn’t have to be only about making money. Entrepreneurs today can make a huge difference by applying entrepreneurial thinking and approaches to problems plaguing the planet and its people and animals. Today, you can create a profitable, successful business that still involves working toward the things you care about most.
- No one thinks you actually work. Consultants—the largest category of one-person businesses—get more respect than they did years back. Still, if you’re a consultant who works from home, some people in your life feel like you’ve got all the time in the world—to run errands in the middle of the day, take a day off, pick up the kids from school. They don’t know you’re day is packed, and you’ve been up all night finishing a project for an impossible-to-please client, and had to attend a 7 am networking meeting to drum up new clients.
- You really are on your own. When you run a small business, YOU make the decisions. That includes the tough ones like firing your incompetent brother-in-law or taking on debt to expand. If you work alone, find a business buddy to bounce ideas off. Sometimes you may actually miss having a boss to tell you what to do.
- You won’t spend all your time on the things you like. You may have started your business to pursue a dream but someone still has to take care of the mundane tasks like answering the phones, sending out invoices, filing taxes, and keeping the books. If you find all you do is struggle to get out from under that pile of paper work, it’s a sign you need to hire help.
- There aren’t enough hours in the day. If you worked in a big corporation before striking out on your own, you may have had one job and one job only. Now you wear many hats—marketer, salesperson, product developer, bookkeeper, project manager, and on and on. And you still do really need to get some sleep!
- You look forward to Monday mornings. Sure, there’s too much work, too much responsibility, too little security. But no one told you that you’d fall in love with being your own boss, controlling your own destiny. Working on projects that challenge you, with people you’ve handpicked, making money from your own ideas and enterprise—these can all motivate you to jump up out of bed Monday mornings.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015
This article originally ran in USA Today on June 19, 2015