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The Realities of Running Your Own Business: Do you have what it takes?

Are you one of the people thinking about ditching the corporate cubicle to go work for yourself?  The promise of freedom sure is enticing.  No more having to be on someone else’s schedule.  No more doing what you’re told.  No more begging for time off or an increase in salary. 

Running your own business is empowering, and the income potential is unlimited.  Work when you feel like it, take 2 hour lunches, do what you want – not what someone else wants.  Working on your own goals, working for yourself, it’s the ultimate dream.  Right?  Or is it?

What is it really like to run your own business?  And do you have what it takes?  What are the realities of being your own boss?  In my experience, running your own business is a lot harder than working for someone else.  If you think working for someone else is difficult, wait until you try being an entrepreneur.  If you want to know what it’s really like running your own business, read on, and see if it’s something you want to step into.

When you work for someone else, all you have to do is show up on time, leave on time, and in between you have to do the work that your boss tells you to do.  When you go home, you probably leave all that behind and enjoy your time with family, friends and your Xbox. 

When you work for yourself, you’re always working.  From the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep you’ll be thinking about your business: how to increase sales, how to increase income, how to get more done, how to handle challenges, how to get more time out of the day.  If you’re working for someone else, trust me, that’s what your boss is thinking about all day long.

When you work for someone else you don’t have to steer the ship.  Your boss is in charge of the company vision; all you have to do is implement his orders.  You may not always agree with the direction the ship is going, but you’re not getting paid to steer, you’re getting paid to row.

When you work for yourself you have to carry the vision alone and decide where your business is going.  Should you offer a service or a product?  Are you going to be local or global?  Online or brick and mortar?  What should you charge?  How will you know which way success lies?  You won’t.  You’ll have to guess, use trial and error, or ask someone else for advice.  You’re 100% responsible for where your business goes, and if you choose wrong, you’ll have to ride out the storm of your mistake while you turn your ship around in a new direction.

When you work for someone else you get a steady paycheck.  You get paid for your time or your output.  Just show up, do a modicum of work, and reap the reward.  Guaranteed income.  You can plan, budget, and save, and every week you’ll know what you’re getting. 

When you work for yourself you have to generate every dollar you make.  If you don’t sell your product or service, you don’t eat.  You could be fabulous at programming, but if you can’t sell your programs, you’re done.  You could be an amazingly gifted artist, but if you don’t know anything about sales and marketing you may never sell a single piece of work.  It won’t matter how skilled you are at your craft.  Money comes when other people are willing to buy what you’re offering, and that happens when people are AWARE of what you’re selling.  If you can’t get it in front of enough eyeballs it won’t matter if you invented the greatest thing since Google, you’re done.  Sure, the sky’s the limit on your income, but the bottom is the limit as well. 

When you work for someone else, you do what you got hired to do.  No more, no less.

When you work for yourself, you do everything until you make enough money to hire other people to do it for you.  You’re the CEO, the VP of Operations, the VP of Sales, the Accounting Dept, the Webmaster, the Receptionist, etc. all the way down to the janitor.  If you thought you were overworked and underpaid before, wait until you’re doing the job of 12 people for half what you were making before.

So why do people think running their own business is the bee’s knees?  It’s the promise of unlimited income.  When you work for yourself you really can make 10-100 times more money than you can working for someone else.  But there’s no guarantee.  Why do you think most businesses fail in the first 1-5 years?  I think it’s because people are unprepared for what it takes to really generate their own income from scratch.  People come up with a great idea, usually based on their skills or abilities, and think they can do it themselves.  Sure, you might be fabulous at creating the value, but where most people fail is not learning how to actually run a business.  It takes a lot more than just a great product or service.

To run your own business you have to have a great product or service, be able to explain to society why they should value it, and set a price that will make people buy from you.  If that sounds simple, it is.  Where people simply mess up is by concentrating on one of those three areas to the exclusion of the other two.  Maybe you’re great at marketing but you have a product or service that people just don’t want.  Maybe you’re an extremely talented artist, but you don’t know how to generate sales.  Maybe your product is outstanding and you can write an amazing sales letter, but the price you have to charge to make a profit is more than the market will pay. 

If you want to run your own business you have to learn how to be an entrepreneur.  So if you’re a programmer, learn business.  If you’re an artist, learn business.  If you’re a personal trainer, learn business.  If you’re a speaker, learn business.  No need to go to school.  Just pick up a hundred books written by entrepreneurs and learn from them.   Read books by marketing experts, internet experts, accounting experts, economists, business leaders, etc.  Successful businesses are out there.  Learn what they’re doing that works, and avoid the mistakes that new entrepreneurs make.

If you want to be an entrepreneur you need to be focused, self disciplined, intelligent, and strategic.  It’s exactly because you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck that you have to be even more diligent with your time.  If at the end of the day you find you spent more time on facebook than on your business, you’re going to fail.  Your work habits are what stand between poverty and wealth. 

Do you have what it takes to launch your business and get it off the ground, to push it past the atmosphere without it falling back to Earth, to get it into space where the sky is no longer the limit?

Before you quit your job, ask yourself if you’re really ready to go it alone.  Do you have the knowledge to care for your business?  Do you have the financial cushion to rest upon while you get your new business off the ground?  Do you have the financial cushion to rest upon when your first few attempts fail miserably?  Do you have the discipline to focus on your work and your very long to-do list?  Is there anything you need to learn or read before you quit your job and launch your business?  Anyone you should talk to? 

I’ve been running my own businesses for the last 10 years, and I’ve learned as much from my failures as I have from my successes.  When you’re an entrepreneur you have to try a lot of things before you figure out what works.  And that’s risky.  You have to learn to manage risk, and mitigate risk, so the unexpected and the unfortunate don’t bury you.  You have to be willing to fail in order to succeed.

You also have to learn when it’s time to switch gears, shut down, and try something else.  Not every idea you have is going to be golden.  Case in point: Years ago I started a vegan gift basket business.  At the time no other company was offering gift baskets that were 100% vegan.  I saw a niche and filled it.  And my business took off.  I got tons of sales (I even sold baskets to vegan celebrities and congressmen!).  But there were problems.  Fully one-third of my inventory would spoil before I could ship it, and if I ordered in lower quantities I lost the wholesale discount.  Also, I had no idea how to make pretty baskets, so in all honesty my baskets sort of sucked.  And I had to charge a high price in order to be profitable.  Soon enough other vegan companies who were already selling products to people started offering their products in gift baskets.  They buried me as I couldn’t compete with their prices.  And their baskets were remarkably beautiful.  I also figured out I was making about $5/hour on the business and it wasn’t that fun for me.  As soon as I realized all of this, I literally took down the website within the hour.  Despite decent sales and lots of growth, my business was doomed to failure.  Just because vegan gift baskets were a great idea and a niche that needed filling didn’t mean I had what it took to fill it. 

I know a lot of people who have quit their corporate jobs to start their own businesses.  The thinking is usually, “I’m the one doing all the real work here, and my boss is making all the money.  Why don’t I just be my own boss and then I’ll be the one making all the money?”  What people fail to see is their boss tossing and turning in his bed at night while trying to think of a way to increase sales or avoid a lawsuit.   

When you’re an entrepreneur you never go home for the day.  You’re always working, always thinking, always trying and cogitating new ideas to make your business more successful.  The seeds you plant need water every day, and sunlight every moment, in order to grow.  You must be patient, steadfast, courageous, and willing to make decisions that could turn out wrong.  You need to learn to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep playing the game.  Sure, you can take a vacation any time you want when you run your own business, but while you’re sitting on the beach sipping a fruity cocktail with an umbrella in it you’ll be thinking about ways to improve your business.

The joy of seeing your business grow and flourish is a real high, and watching your bank account grow exponentially is awesome.  If you’re really ready, and you’ve got what it takes, and you’re willing to put in the effort, then go for it!  Just know what you’re getting into and prepare yourself.  The success of your business rests squarely on your shoulders, and the responsibility is 100% yours.  What will you create?  Do you know how to succeed?  Are you willing to grow? 

When you run your own business you definitely get freedom, but it’s the freedom to fail as well as succeed.  Before you launch make sure there’s fuel in the tank and a fire in your belly.  You’ll need both where you’re going!

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