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What is it like owning your own small business?

I'm going to college to get a business degree and I plan on starting my own small business someday, but I don't know what that really consists of. Is it hard to be successful and make a decent living with this being your only source of income? business small-business

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Kristan’s Answer


Congratulations on considering becoming a business owner! I love being a small business owner; I love the flexibility, I enjoy consistently learning new things, and I am solution-oriented. My entrepreneurial journey has provided me with endless opportunities to push myself and learn about myself-my strengths, my gaps, my superpowers :). That being said it has meant working weekends and long nights at times, it means being the one who ultimately takes responsibility for when things go well and not so well, and it means being willing to show up each day to the best of your ability. So, it helps if you chose a field that is meaningful to you, a business or service that you connect with beyond the potential financial rewards. Play to your strengths, learn to ask for help, and allow time for reflection on a regular basis to access what is working in your business and what needs adjustment. Be willing to Beta test, let go of your perfectionism in exchange for action, and get curious about feedback or criticism. Lastly implement a schedule of self-care, your business needs you to be healthy and rested.

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Rachel’s Answer

You will need to focus on stress and time management. In order to manage stress you have to manage your time wisely. <span style="background-color: transparent;">You have to set a routine for yourself and stick to it for the most part. Once you get into the groove of a routine it will be much easier for you to manage your time and have enough time for everything you need to do (including relaxing). Make yourself to-do lists on a weekly basis, use Google calendar or a planner to keep track of events, deadlines, and due dates. In addition to setting a routine and sticking to it, plan out relaxing activities into your day. Or set aside a time, after everything is done for the day, that you can have "me" time. I have also personally found it essential to not only find time for myself but also make use of that time in a way that is best for me and my holistic wellness. I have found the HeadSpace app to be an essential tool in helping me relax and generally feel more relaxed throughout the day, Guided meditation, even if you have a busy schedule, will make you feel more at ease and relaxed throughout the day as a whole (not just when you have the time to relax and focus on that "me" time).</span>

<span style="background-color: transparent;">Set a routine.Use Google Calendar.Set aside Me TimeWrite weekly to-do lists and use a planner.Find a peaceful and restful activity that will help you feel relaxed.</span>

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Donald’s Answer

Hi Sierra,

I worked for a large company before I started my own business and I knew that my particular position would end in about a year. That was 15 years ago. I had a lot of high level experience and thought consulting might be right for me. I quickly found that although the compensation was excellent, It was very frustrating. People would hire me to validate their own positions and all the creativity, problem solving and innovation I thought I would be doing simply did not happen. So, unlike working for someone else, I changed course. I knew from my experience there were many systems in my former industry that were obsolete, no longer manufactured or the parts to manufacture them were not available. So I changed my business.......I started specializing in supplying folks what the couldn't get. High quality low volume unique parts and assemblies. There was little risk for customers, and I had contacts and experience, so, starting small, I was able to move into larger projects at my own pace.

So the ability to change direction, make modifications in your business model, and the ability to capitalize on opportunities are just a few of the things you get to do if it's your business. It is very satisfying to get paid for what you were able to do. But it is definitely not "trading time for money".

My business was created for me and later my wife also joined which gave us an opportunity to work together on many project around the country and around the world. We were very fortunate and to say we put in a lot of time and effort doesn't really start to describe the dedication and "stick to it" attitude that is required to make it all work. Some times you're a bill collector (not everybody pays on-time), sometimes you're the salesman and sometimes you're doing what you always wanted to do. It's a moving target and I like to think that I "get to do this".

When everyone is at the beach on a beautiful summer day and you're in a conference room hammering out a deal with a client or solving a might question why you're doing this. There's an old saying that goes, "a person who does what he loves never works a day in his life". Make sure you're doing what you love......It makes all the difference in the world.

And while you're in school, really try to identify the methods that you use to get your best results. Keep honing those while you are in school in an environment where mistakes don't cost dollars or reputation. If you have an idea on what kind of business your going into start asking yourself, "how will what I am planning to do affect my ability to start and run my new business." So start simple, start small and by all means, start now testing your concepts, testing yourself and providing yourself with the educational fundamentals that will allow you to launch when you're ready.

All the best in whatever direction you choose!

Don Knapik

Donald recommends the following next steps:

Talk with people you know who are operating small businesses. Ask what are the great parts / what are the not so great parts.
If you know the area you want to go into, subscribe to the trade magazines and newsletters to get an idea where your industry is going, who's making it and how are they doing it.
Start a list of skills, resources and/or experience you'll need and compare them to where you are now. Start thinking about how you'll fill in the gaps.