Opening Your Own Business?

By: E. Kerry Bramhall, LICSW
This article is one of a series of articles titled, "Have You Ever Thought About...?"

Starting your own business is a great idea! Being your own boss, setting your own schedule and time off, and using your creativity to further your own wealth are the values for many new business owners. It is an ideal that is part of our culture in the U.S., one that many of us grow up with, dream of as young adults, inherit from family, or even transition to at retirement age. Owning a business conjures up the idea of freedom and independence from the many tasks and drudgeries of the daily grind...

Or does it?

Well, it certainly can although business ownership requires business skills and you'll need them throughout your life as an entrepreneur. You don't need an MBA to make your business work for you although certain skills are necessary to develop in order to be a success. Here are four important points to keep in your toolbox at all times:

#1 Do you have a Business Plan?

A business plan might sound intimidating, or even useless, at first. Why does your great idea for a business need a plan if you can imagine it already? Because every great idea starts in your imagination and comes to life in real time (however long or short that period of time is!) Truly, you can start a simple business plan and build from there. However, careful planning for your business if the key to understanding your start-up costs, your areas for marketing your business, your competition, and for reaching the customers that will purchase your products and services, and then refer you to others to do the same!

#2 How much time, money, and energy is realistic for you to put into your business at this time in your life?

Starting your business can feel like adding a new member to the family. Like a newborn it takes time, money, physical and emotional energy and even love. It can also keep you up at night! When you already live on a tight budget, carry a heft credit card debt, work a full time job and take care of other family members, adding your new business can mean overload. Knowing how much time, money, energy you will realistically have to take care of your business will help you organize, prioritize, problem solve, and follow through on the most important tasks for your business as it grows.

#3 What is your idea of "success" for your business?

The success of your business is something to really think about because what you believe about your business (and about yourself as a business owner) will help or hinder it from moving in the direction you want it to go. Think about what you'd like to earn, who your ideal customer is, what you will offer, and what you would want as a customer of the business. Will you be on the front lines or supervising from a distance? Do you want to match your salary now, or double it in a year? Will you expand to sell many things or stick to one idea only? How flexible can you be? Not all business owners want the same thing from owning a business, and a successful one means different things to different business owners. Spending some time considering this is also part of your business plan.

#4 Take a good look at your personal stumbling blocks!

As a new business owner, I give all my attention and focus to what I envision my business to become. Looking back, I see this was not always the most positive vision. On the contrary, worries about money, about being taken seriously, the doubts I had about selling myself and my product began to hinder my efforts and made moving ahead seem positively overwhelming some days. With the help of my business consultant (another recommendation I'd make to anyone) I came to realize that the forward movement of my business was influenced by my very beliefs about myself as a business owner; my negative thoughts began to influence my actions and my actions became less and less oriented to the success of my business and instead, focused only on not failing. This is a NORMAL feeling that all business owners face yet, indeed can stop the flow of business from moving forward. It's like putting on a life jacket before getting in deep water only to be so fearful of what MIGHT happen that you never get your feet wet!

There are many tips out there for becoming a successful business owner. Take to heart what makes sense and adjust the rest for yourself. Be prepared to spend time nurturing your business and commit to it. Turn to those people who are members of your trusted circle, your colleagues and friends who push you, support you, and give you honest answers when you need them most. Complete your business plan, look at it frequently and revise it as needed. Tap into your creative side that got you into this in the first place and keep pressing forward!