Reasons for Owning a Small Business

Once, while in the middle of what seemed like an endless series of crises for our clients, one of my partners looked me straight in the eye and said, “Mike, if it was easy owning a business, everyone would do it!”

He was right.  A career as a small business owner is a long and challenging journey.  Our clients endure many sleepless nights worrying about things such as having enough cash to make payroll, firing someone who has worked with you from the beginning even though you know it is the right thing to do, signing that personal guarantee required to get the bank loan you desperately need, or muddling through a business partnership that has gone bad.

“You have to be a little crazy to run a small business,” says one of my partners, Dr. John Hackett.  And yet, every day hundreds and even thousands of people take the seemingly irrational act of doing just that. Why do they do it? Why do we do it?

I see too many small business owners who started their businesses without ever thinking through what really drives them to be an owner.  I think this is a mistake.

Aspiring business owners should be clear on their “real reasons” for starting a business.  What is it about your personality that drives you to follow through on this “crazy” act?  What are the fundamental goals in life that drive you?

For me there are four “real reasons” to be a small business mentor.

First, I love finding solutions for complex problems.  I enjoy finding solutions for needs in the market.  It is more than just coming up with the concept. I love the process of designing and refining business models.  Nothing is more rewarding to me than figuring out all of the pieces of the puzzle that need to be in place to come up with a viable business plan to address a specific need.

In my work as a mentor and advisor (I hate the word “consultant”), I satisfy this same goal when I help develop a plan of action with a client, design new metrics for measuring performance, and sharing with a client positive improvements in his business.

Second, I love to “build things.”  Once I have designed a model to solve a complex problem, I enjoy the process of implementation, which is a highly creative process.  It is never simply following the steps predetermined in a business plan.  Running a profitable business is much more like jazz than a symphony.  It is full of improvisation and surprises.

My third “real reason” for being an advisor/mentor is tied to outcomes, rather than the process itself.  I like to create jobs.  Small business growth is the engine for real economic growth.  Entrepreneurs create new businesses, and sometimes even new industries, which provide the fuel for economic expansion.  I have always enjoyed playing a small part in this critical function in our society.

The final “real reason” for me to pursue helping, training, implementing and measuring the results in meaningful terms is that it is quite simply, fun.  Even with all of the challenges and heartaches that come with owning a business, I get great joy out of helping small businesses.  In the end, life is short – fun matters.

If you are thinking about becoming a business owner either through a start-up or through an acquisition, reflect on your own “real reasons” for taking this path in your work life.  Talk about them with people who really know you to make sure that you are not missing something.  Then write them down so that when the going gets tough you can remind yourself why you chose to start your business in the first place.  You will need this perspective from time to time.

If you are already a business owner, make sure that you are keeping your “real reasons” front and center in your life.  Make sure that all of the decisions you make help you achieve the fundamental goals that led you to become a business owner in the first place.  If you get off track, take steps to get back to what is important to you, even if that requires you to make some big changes!

If your entrepreneurial spirit allows you to pursue what it truly important to you — your “real reasons” — maybe it is not so crazy to be a small business owner after all.