As our careers grow, and we gain professional momentum, it’s common to think about starting an enterprise of our own—whether related to the industry we are employed in, or in something that we have always been passionate about, but never had time to act on.
As much as people consider this, they don’t always consider what it’s actually like to go from being an employee to a business owner. While you may be one of the best at what you do, are you sufficiently trained in all of the other aspects it takes to manage, market, and maintain a company?
Before jumping in head first, you should do your best to be prepared for the augmented responsibility and accountability that you will be taking on by starting your own business.
This post will explore some of the biggest learning curves that you’ll face, and how you can decide if you’re ready to venture out on your own.
Becoming the Boss of Your Small Business
There is a huge difference in what you need to think about and where your priorities are when you go from being an employee to an owner. You may need to realign your mindset and get used to thinking about things from a new perspective.
Decision Making as a Business Owner
Being a manager, supervisor, or even an executive is a lot different than being a founder and CEO. You may have experience at a senior level, with employees who answer and report to you, but ultimately, you probably weren’t the only one to handle the big company decisions.
Likely, you worked with a team, or, at the very least, offered your opinion to the owner, who then decided what they thought would be best.
Once the decisions shift to you, the game changes. Not only do you have to be responsible, but you will now be the only one accountable for choosing the direction of the company. The weight of that can become quite a burden, as the success and failure of your business will depend solely on your ability to make wise choices.
Delegating to Employees
If you plan to have employees right from the start, they can help you to make good business choices based on their job experience. You can have an employee research possible outcomes of a decision, and provide you with a report or analysis that can guide you in steering your business in a direction that heads towards your goals. Ultimately, the decision is still yours, but educated input can help to clear the path.
Of course, you’ll need to get used to delegating tasks, assessing workloads, and assigning duties to your employees as well. You won’t just need to manage your own tasks anymore, you’ll need to manage and direct those of your workers.
Learning Curves for New Owners
It’s common for employees to specialize in one or two things, and for them to focus on those skills in the workplace, while others fill in the gaps. A writer doesn’t really need to know anything about accounting, and a programmer might not have any interest in marketing, but the company still moves forward.
If you were an employee for a number of years, that’s probably how things worked at your place of employment as well. But, as a boss, things are going to change.
Business owners need to be knowledgeable about everything from human resources and accounting, to marketing and product development. While you don’t need to be an expert in these areas, you do need to understand how they work, what they provide to your business, and how they work together. You can’t just be “the idea guy”, or “the computer whiz” anymore.
Now, you’re the boss, and employees will be coming to you with questions for just about everything. Your opinion matters because it’s your business, so help it to grow by learning how the mechanics of it actually function and how they affect your success and failure.
Your employees will be grateful that you are getting involved and taking an interest in what they do, and they’ll appreciate your honesty.
Get an overview of whatever skills you don’t have, including HR, accounting, marketing, business planning, product development and creation, and whatever else is relevant to your endeavor.
Learning the Hard Parts of Business Ownership
As a business owner, you’ll need to learn how to handle stressful situations with tact. While you still want to be a good person, you need to be comfortable with hiring, firing, and disciplining employees. There are going to be hard decisions to make somewhere down the line, and you need to prepare for all types of situations.
Negotiation is also a key part of becoming successful in your venture. Not only with your employees, but as part of business deals, partnerships, and marketing opportunities. You have to stick to a budget and you can’t be shy about what you want.
Often, that means having hard rules about what prices you are willing to pay, and what accommodations you are willing to make. You’ll need to learn to stick to your decisions and to bargain hard for what you want. You may not always get the answer you’re looking for, but having a solid backbone is part of what you need to grow your business.
Taming Your Marketing Beast
One of the most popular questions for new business owners is, “how do I market my product?”, whether it be a service or a tangible commodity. There’s no single answer to this, but it will depend on what you are selling.
Will your product be sold online, or will you have a brick-and-mortar location? Is your service dependent on traditional advertising, such as radio and newspaper ads, or do you want to leverage online marketing?
You’ll need to determine your audience, and then research where they shop and how they make purchases to figure out how to get their attention. While all other aspects of your business are important, marketing is what will keep you afloat. You can’t sell your product or service if no one knows that it exists.
Some of the most important questions to consider are:
- Who is my target audience?
- How do I reach them?
- Who are my competitors?
- How do they promote themselves?
- What do I want my brand to say?
Your idea might be one of the best, but if you mistake where your audience is you will just be wasting money. This is where market research comes in handy, as well as a marketing professional. To give your business the best chance, you really need to come to terms with who you’re selling to and where you need to target them.
Although research might prove that your potential customers are completely different than you thought, or you’re uncomfortable with trying a new type of marketing, there’s a chance your venture might fail if you waste resources on marketing channels that your users don’t frequent.
Are You Ready to Become a Boss?
There is a lot of work that goes into starting a business, and it should never be taken lightly. If your financial and professional future depends on a stable and sturdy business, then you should be willing to take on the heavy workload and responsibility that it will require.
Always remember that you can hire professionals if need be, and that you will get support along the way. Very few businesses were started on a whim, so if you put in the time, and make the right choices, you could be on your way to fulfilling your dream of becoming an employer, rather than an employee running your own operation.
What has been the toughest thing for you to overcome as a business owner?