The Right Stuff, Part 3

Essential Qualities for Owners

Over the last few days we’ve been examining what it takes to be a successful small or home-based business owner. In our last article you had the opportunity to examine your strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to realize that you can still be successful even if you don’t possess every skill the “experts” say are needed to run a small business. There are, however, certain qualities that are more important to possess if you’re going to be successful. Let’s take a look at them:

  1. Willingness to sacrifice: You must be willing to accept the fact that, as a small business owner, you are the last one to be paid. Your bank, your vendors, and your employees are all in line ahead of you and must be paid before you see any of the money. You must also be willing to sacrifice much of what once was your free time to your business. If you like the routine of working nine-to-five, knowing how much you’ll make, and taking three weeks of vacation every year, it may not be a good idea to go into business for yourself.
  2. Interpersonal skills: If you thought that getting along with your boss was tough, wait until you have to deal with suppliers, customers, employees, lawyers, accountants, government officials, and everybody in between. Successful owners are able to work with all personality types, and they’re able to find out from their customers what they like and don’t like.
  3. Leadership skills: Successful owners understand that others are looking to them to be led to the promise land. Others will be looking to you for answers, and if you’re not ready for that responsibility, you probably shouldn’t own your own business. That’s not to say it cannot be done, but a wiser path may be to start small and only grow your business as you grow yourself as a leader.
  4. Organizational skills: Successful owners are able to keep track of what’s going on in their business and they’re able to set priorities and get things done. They know that if they lose track of what’s going on, they’re sunk. From getting taxes paid to getting phone calls returned promptly, a business owner needs to stay organized.
  5. Intelligence: We’re not talking about the ability to score well on standardized tests. We’re talking more about street smarts and common sense. Successful owners are able to anticipate problems before they arise and to take preemptive steps to avoid them, and they know how to solve crises after they occur.
  6. Management ability: Small business is all about managing relationships, with your customers or clients, with your employees, with your suppliers, with your accountant and lawyer, with your banker, and with your family. In the direct selling business, your most important relationships are those with your customers and your own sales team. It is critical you give those people the time and attention needed to be successful.
  7. Business experience: If you need to borrow money to start a new business, it will be a challenge to do so without some solid previous business experience. Your banker will want to know about your experience, not just in business, but in the same field as the business you’re hoping to start. Don’t let that discourage you. If you lack the experience, go get it any way you can: volunteer at an existing business or try to get a part-time or weekend job in the field.
  8. Optimism: How will you react when business isn’t going as well as your expected? A pessimist may fold the tent, but an optimist who believes in the business will keep going. Successful owners are optimists who are able to weather the rough spots. It’s important to write down Why you went into business in the first place. Revisit your passion or your vision frequently to keep your enthusiasm high.

Although the qualities listed above are important to a small business’ success, particularly to one just starting out, not every single owner of every single successful business has had every single one of the desired qualities. This suggests that there’s hope for those who don’t possess every quality (and that’s most of us!). Maybe one of these categories applies to you:

  • The unique idea — if you’ve built a better mousetrap, they’ll beat a path to your door, even if you’re a poorly organized pessimistic introvert.
  • The genius — if you possess the gift of greatness, they’ll not only overlook your weaknesses, they’ll revel in them.
  • Blind luck — the Small Business Hall of Fame contains more than a few stories of people who backed into success because of their incredibly good timing. It’s happened to others…why not you?

We’ll wrap up our series with our next installment by looking at some ways to compensate for your weaknesses or areas that need some improving.

See  you next time,

Mark “Gunny” Thomas

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