STARTING A SMALL BUSINESS
Perhaps it’s the company I keep, but it feels like every day I’m hearing about someone starting a new business. Often this is someone who has never been in business before, but they feel they are great at what they do and feel they’d be equally as great at running a business selling what they do. The other side of this hope-laden coin is that we’re often called in to help businesses that are struggling because the owner is, to put it plainly, not suited to the task of running a business.
With that in mind I thought it might be useful to run through some key character traits that successful small business owners have in common – consider them the traits of a good entrepreneur.
1. FOCUS ( AKA KNOWING WHEN TO SAY NO)
Small business owners often find themselves in the fortuitous position if being presented with exciting opportunities such as partnership deals, expansion plans, new ventures, etc. Whilst these opportunities may seem like a great idea at the time, if your business isn’t super stable you’re taking a massive risk by taking your eye off the prize. Distraction can be a killer in small business.
A great business owner knows when the time is right to explore new opportunities and they know when they need to knuckle down and focus on what’s most important – their main business. Stick with your core competency until it’s a cash machine and then start to look for new opportunities, not before or you risk all your earlier efforts going up in smoke.
Not every element of running a business, especially a micro/small business in the early days, is going to be your cup of tea. There are going to be tasks you need to handle such as insurances, cash flow, marketing, sales, managing staff issues, etc. that you might want to run away from. What separates a great business owner from the rest is having the maturity to accept the good with the bad and just getting it done. Even when the business grows there is only so much you can delegate without losing too much control, so learning to accept the boring with the exciting is an important lesson for all business owners to learn.
3. PEOPLE SKILLS
Excepting perhaps some tech geniuses, it’s a rare occurence you get a successful business leader that doesn’t have brilliant people skills. These people know how to read people, they know when to push and when to back off and they tend to possess great bulls**t detectors.
If you are a classic Type-A personality and you often find yourself at the centre of conflicts, running your own business might not be the best move for you (or your potential employees and suppliers).
4. RISK TAKER
Starting your own business can be a risky from many perspectives – financial, personal, health, career – so it takes a certain type of personality to accept the inherently risky nature of starting a business and not becoming overwhelmed with the associated stress. Now, that’s not to say that successful entrepreneurs are risk-seeking gamblers with a deathwish, but it does mean they are willing to take on a certain level of calculated risk when it comes to life and business.
5. QUICK LEARNER
People who are great in business tend to be a quick study and they are keen to learn more. Starting a small business is akin to taking a dozen crash courses all at once – inbound marketing techniques, staff conflict resolution, cash flow management, employment obligations, manufacturing codes, etc. Are you keen and able to undertake this much learning?
Another part of this is learning when enough is enough. It’s great to experiment in your business – new sales techniques, new products, etc. – but you need to know when to stop and focus on what is actually making you money. Don’t get distracted by having dozens of product lines when there is only 3 that make you money. Learning and knowing when to knock something on the head is as important as experimenting with the new idea in the first instance.
6. PROBLEM SOLVER
If you are a top-notch problem solver it’s a good indicator you’ll be great at running a small business as it’s definitely a challenge that throws up countless problems on a day to day basis – think of yourself as the CPS (Chief Problem Solver). On the other hand, if you’re someone that baulks at problems, drags them out, doesn’t like to make a decision and has a tendency to keep people waiting, then starting a small business probably isn’t for you. Think about this – in your professional life are you someone that people come to for advice and solutions, or are you knocking on someone else’s door for the answer?
Last, but certainly not least, is the need to posses drive. To run a successful business takes energy and determination otherwise it’s unlikely to succeed. You need to possess a certain level of single-mindedness and confidence in your ability to deliver and this is something that successful entrepreneurs all tend to have in spades (tempered with a bit of humility, of course!).
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll give you a great starting point if you’re thinking about heading out into business for yourself. What if you’re not sure if you’ve got the right personality traits to be successful at running a business? There is a neat money personality profiling tool that you can use called Moneymax and it looks at your personal financial personality profile. I did the test and the results were, I felt, surprisingly accurate. You can take the test here, or you could sign up for a free trial with LifeSherpa and take the test on their site.
If your business could do with a helping hand or if you’re simply looking for someone to bounce ideas off, drop us a line. We work with countless small business owners on a huge range of issues – staffing, strategy, finance – you name it. We’d love to help.