Q. Dear Zenagos, I want to start my own business, but I don’t have a new invention or a breakthrough concept. I just want to be my own boss. Is that a bad reason to start a business?
Wanting to be your own boss is a great reason to start a business. If you search the Internet for reasons people start a business, that’s almost always in the top ten, and it’s usually in the top three. There is nothing wrong with following your desire to do things your way, and you’ll have a lot of company if you launch a small business with that goal in mind.
Truly, there is no “bad” reason to start a business. When you build a business, you create an extension of yourself, so whatever motivates you is the right reason to start the business. There’s no need to judge your reason.
However, if you decide to tell everyone your motivation, there may be consequences. Rightly or wrongly, society judges some motives to be better or worse than others. For example, if your mission is to reduce hunger and poverty, you may receive more free and positive press than if your goal is to become the richest person on the planet. However, that doesn’t make it “bad” to dream of achieving personal wealth and fame. Follow your genuine passion.
Although there is no incorrect motivation, entrepreneurship isn’t easy, so some goals are harder to achieve by launching a small business than others are. When we talk with entrepreneurs, this is the advice we hear consistently:
Goals you often can achieve with a small business. . .
Be your own boss
When you launch or acquire your own business, you become the decision-maker. You will decide your work hours, your vacation schedule, and who becomes involved in the company. Each day is motivating because you “own” what you do. Getting to call your own shots is one of the best benefits of running your own show.
Work according to your values
Some people find a place to work that follows their passion and meets their values, but many people don’t find that until they start their own organization. As the owner of the business, you will guide the company’s direction and build its culture. Many entrepreneurs value this creative freedom to build their own environment as the best benefit of business ownership.
Build something from the ground up
It is very satisfying to start something from nothing and watch it grow. Business owners tell us they experience tremendous pride because they have built their business on their own. They get the credit for what they achieve, and they like the idea that they started it from scratch themselves.
Solve a problem
If you see a common problem that you have the ability to solve and enjoy solving, that’s a great reason to start a business. A business that creates real value for customers in a repeatable way will have a good probability of success.
Invest in yourself
If you have a lot of confidence in your ability, you may become tired of investing all of that talent in someone else’s company or having your accomplishments build your boss’ reputation, instead of your own. When you start your own business, you invest in yourself – all of your work goes to building your reputation, and perhaps eventually, your wealth and financial freedom.
Make your dreams come true
If you have a strong creative vision, it can be difficult to bring that to life within the constraints of an existing business culture. By starting your own company, you can follow your dreams in exactly the way that you envision them. When you do what you love, the money doesn’t always follow, but the joy may be priceless.
Build a legacy
Small business is a terrific path to the American Dream. If you want to pass your business down to the next generation, this is a truly viable goal. SCORE (2018), a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), reports that 30% of family-owned businesses are handed to the next generation. So, if your heirs are interested in taking on the business, you may truly be building a multigenerational legacy.
Enjoy more flexibility. . .sort of
Small business owners tell us conflicting things about flexibility. On the one hand, when you run your own business, there is never really a day off. Even if you don’t work on the weekend, you will be worrying about your business. When you are on vacation, you’re still probably on call. On the other hand, you decide everything about your schedule. If you want to take Thursdays off to coach your kid’s team, you can absolutely do it. If you want to leave in the middle of the day to pick your child up from school, you can do it. So, having more control feels like more flexibility, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility.
Take advantage of tax benefits
Because state and federal governments want to encourage economic growth, there are many tax benefits for small business owners. Depending on how your business operates, the vast majority of your living expenses may be deductible, including car, phone, and even some of your home. While the numbers on your tax return may seem low, you will experience a better lifestyle. Tax breaks may not inspire you to start a business, but you will be glad to have them.
Goals you are unlikely to achieve with a small business. . .
Get rich quickly
Some entrepreneurs do strike gold and “get rich quick,” but that is not common. Most small business people grow their business gradually over time. There is nothing wrong with having a goal of getting rich, but if you go into business thinking that you will get there quickly, you will most likely be disappointed. Payscale lists the national average salary of a small business owner as between $60,000 and $70,000. If this is not your definition of “rich,” then you may want to rethink your path to wealth.
Run away from something
If you think that starting a business will help you escape from something, it might be a good idea to reconsider. Maybe you hate your boss, resent your colleagues, or just despise work? Problems with relationships have a way of recurring in each new environment. As you run your small business, you will eventually experience the kinds of conflicts that you didn’t like in your old job. So, consider getting some help with relationship-building. If you do decide to start your own business, improving your relationship-building skills will be invaluable.
Spend more time with family
Running a small business can be all-consuming and can actually take up more time than a job working for someone else. If you want to spend more time with family, you will have a higher probability of achieving your goal if you do some networking to find out more about jobs that are already available and have great work-life balance. Small business owners have more flexibility, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have more free time.
If you are a control freak, and this interferes with your ability to enjoy your work, you probably won’t find small business to be a big improvement. In fact, there may be more factors that are out of your control in a small business than in a traditional job. Your time might be better spent working with someone to help you gain more feelings of control in your current situation before you try starting a business.
Work with your. . . (sister, best friend, dad, et al)
Running a business is difficult and may stress your relationships, even if you are very close. See our blog post about working with your best friends. It is notoriously difficult to work in a family-owned business, and the small business owners we talk to have a raft of stories about partnerships going awry.
Get unlimited vacation
Unless you are already financially independent, running a small business is not a high-probability path to fewer work hours or unlimited vacations. When we talk to entrepreneurs, they talk about how many extra hours they work and how tiring it is to bear the responsibility of meeting deadlines and payrolls. None of them talks about how relaxing it is to own a small business.
Prove someone wrong
Starting a business to prove someone wrong (or to make someone happy) is not a recipe for success. It is challenging enough to solve the challenges of a new business, without having to bear additional emotional baggage. Your time is better spent investing in people who will accept you for who you are than in starting a complex new venture.
Succeed where others have failed
We think it is odd when someone sees a trend of a particular kind of business closing and then decides to open that business. If several businesses of the same type are struggling, then it makes sense to interview some of those owners and see what their common challenges are. If others are consistently failing, that’s not a great signal, no matter how clever you are.
Even if you decide not to start a business, it’s a great idea to list the pros and cons. The process will help you to sort out what really matters to you right now. Some aspiring entrepreneurs go through the process and then decide not to take the leap. That’s okay. It can be a terrific feeling to realize that your job is a better deal than you thought!