Running a small business isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but it also isn’t all doom and gloom. Like everything in life, it’s a balance. Depending on each of our personalities, we may focus on one side or the other. But, it’s the ability to see both that makes clients successful. So let’s talk about two upsides and two downsides to operating your own small business.
The top 2 small business upsides are agility and control. For many control is the key motivator. Being free to do your own thing is a major benefit.
After 20 plus years in corporate America, I can confidently say that I have seen more great ideas die in committee than make it to market. In addition, I’ve seen so many great ideas become diluted to mediocrity to accommodate competing agenda. People who were more concerned about themselves than the company.
The advantage small businesses have is that they don’t have this crap. I’m sorry, but yes, it’s crap. We have to be focused on what drives the business forward to survive. We can implement change and adapt quickly. We can identify market opportunities and provide products and services before the big companies have had their 2nd meeting. Plus, as we grow, we can learn from the problems we used to have.
Control allows you to cut through the BS that most large companies have. It’s a ton of responsibility. Being able to call the shots means you are responsible at the end of the day for the financial, operational, and business strategy. Honestly, if not managed well, it can feel overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be.
It is incredibly empowering to be able to determine the people you hire, the clients or customers you serve, the impact you have on your community, and the list continues. This gives you the amazing opportunity to work with people you like, you trust, and you know are good people. You get to create the organizational culture that is right for you.
The top 2 small business downsides are knowledge-base and money. For many, money or access to capital is the biggest downside. However, I would argue knowledge-base is where we see most people get tripped up.
Knowledge-base is the flipside of control. If you are in charge of the financial, operations, and business strategy, you need to be knowledgeable about each. That’s no small task. Few people have the breadth of knowledge, and that’s OK. There are plenty of successful small business owners who don’t. That’s when it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you do know and what you don’t. Then, you can get the help you need by hiring great talent, by creating an advisory board, and/or by bringing in a consulting group. People who tend to fail do so because they try to do it all or fail to recognize or admit what they don’t know.
Yes, this one is the obvious one. Small businesses do not typically have the advantage of being funded by large investment firms or groups. This means we have to be mindful of capital and cash-flow always. We can’t afford to blow out millions in cash before we show a profit. Arguably, things are changing with the Ubers and WeWorks of the world. But, we aren’t financially able to make many big mistakes or big gambles.
Being mindful of profit doesn’t mean you don’t try to learn or be so afraid of making mistakes or investing that it cripples your long-term growth. Look, I won’t lie, there are many times when we are trying to learn something, that I second guess myself. I question am I doing the right thing? And can I afford to spend money where I need to, like on marketing or hiring? Whenever I get anxious, I go back to our benchmarks. Are we moving towards where we want to be? That’s why metrics and benchmarks are so important. Not only can they help your course correct, they can also give you the courage to stay the course as well.
The glass is neither half empty or half full. It’s both. It’s important to keep your eye on both balls, as tough as that may seem. It’s easy to focus on one or the other to the determent of both. There is no perfect upside or downside to owning a small business. Just know what you need, and your limits.
Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkedIn profile