In honor of Small Business Saturday, we’re celebrating small business owners all month! And not only current small business owners, but those that are up-and-coming as well. Have you been wanting to start a small business for awhile? Do you have an idea in place, but haven’t quite taken the plunge? Well, we’re here to help. After all, starting a business may be nothing like you envisioned it would be.
Owning your own business can be a major part of the American dream. But that doesn’t mean it’s always all it’s cracked up to be, either. Here are some important lessons you may learn along the way:
It’s Not Always as Exciting as You Thought
When you worked in a cubicle and stared out the window, fantasizing about ample working vacations in the Caribbean, the concept of working for yourself was equal parts distant fantasy and endlessly exciting.
And working for yourself can be exciting. In fact, there’s a strong reason that entrepreneurs are some of the happiest people on the planet. Freedom is great.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Building a new business can also be stressful, taxing, and—make sure you’re sitting down for this—will often feel very similar to your old job.
With all that added freedom comes added responsibility. You’ll be responsible for a brand new budget. You may end up responsible for making payroll every month. For the well-being of a team of employees. For an entire company. And sometimes, it will all feel like it’s dangling by a thread.
The good news: if you read all of that and still think “yeah, I want to start a business,” then there’s a strong chance it’s the right decision for you.
It Costs More Than You Think
True: in some types of businesses, your digital overhead may be so low that it essentially amounts to counting how much you pay in transaction and credit card fees.
But for most businesses, your startup costs will generally be higher than you think. The Small Business Administration created a startup cost calculator to help entrepreneurs get a sense of what they can expect to pay before they dive into the deep end of the pool. It’s easy to ignore these costs when you’re an employee and don’t think about who’s paying for everything. When you have to write the check, though, you’ll have to think about everything, including:
- Office space and supplies
- Employee training
- Recruitment services
- Website maintenance
And this is just a small sample of the costs for which you’re now responsible. Before you jump into that proverbial deep end, make sure that you think of every cost as much as possible and develop a plan for handling them.
Luckily, there are a lot of great, affordable services out there built specifically for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Such is the case with Grasshopper! For a low cost, a solo operator or an entrepreneur leading a growing team can separate their business phone from their personal phone and get a professional boost! And for a limited time, you can try Grasshopper for free and be entered to win a whole year of Grasshopper service on us!
Managing People is More Difficult Than You Thought
Ever find yourself at the bottom of the totem pole? Most of us have. And one thing we have in common at the bottom of the totem pole is that we think we can do better than the person on top.
But the view from the top is far more complicated than you might imagine. Here are a few tips for better managing people who rely on your leadership to get things done:
- Make communication a priority. The best leaders set clear expectations for their team. They don’t rely on mind-reading and precedent to do the teaching for them. Instead, set very clear goals and milestones as to what you expect. Write out an employee manual for starters and make sure that you regularly check in with your team.
- Remain open to feedback. Just as you’d expect an employee to adjust their work habits if you pointed out something wrong to them, you should be willing to hear employee feedback. True, not all the feedback you hear will be valid constructive criticism. But so long as you remain willing to hear it, you’ll keep yourself in check.
- Accept that some people will be irrational. When you manage people, dealing with the flaws that “people” have in general comes with the territory. You have to accept that not every decision an employee makes will appear rational. You have to accept that their inability to get along with some co-workers will not make sense to you. You have to accept that not every situation is “winnable.” Do your best, but accept that people—even strong employees—are still human beings with flaws.
It’s Okay to Ask For Help
When you become a full entrepreneur, it’s tempting to view yourself as the royalty in your particular castle. You’re in charge of the manor. You have all the answers. You’re self-actualized.
The reality is far different. Jon Stein of Betterment once told Inc.com that if he could go back in time and tell himself something he learned along the way, it would be that he sometimes needs to lean on others:
“In the beginning, I thought I could handle all of the work myself. I was going to do all the coding, handle all of the legal, and build a fully-automated solution. And that worked, but only for so long. The work just kept growing, and I quickly realized that I needed the help of others.”
Contrary to what you may be thinking, there is no magic pill that comes in the mail from the Small Business Administration. There’s no wand to wave that will make you more capable, more poised, more confident. That will all come from within.
And if it doesn’t all come from within right away, that’s okay too. It’s okay to ask for help from others. You can find mentors, lean on colleagues, or simply delegate the work that you’re not suited for. This won’t only make your life a lot easier, but will help you understand that being a leader doesn’t mean you’re necessarily stronger as a worker. Everyone needs help sometimes.
The Hard Work Is Worth It
Here’s the good news: it’s worth it.
While added responsibility can increase stress, there’s no reason that you have to succumb to this stress as you run a business. You can adapt. You can lean on others. You can learn the ropes and improve with every lesson learned. And as you think back on those days in which you stared out the cubicle window with Caribbean vacations in your head, you’ll find that your life is far closer to that dream than ever before. And no matter how hard you’ve worked already, in that moment—it won’t seem so tough.
So this Small Business Saturday (or any day, really), go out and start that business you’ve been dreaming of. And not only that, but support others who have worked relentlessly on their small businesses — who have put their heart and soul into building something they believe in.