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No Such Thing as “How to be a small Business Owner”

If you pull up Google and search “how to be a small business owner” you will be presented with thousands of articles, blogs and research papers detailing what an “entrepreneur” should look like.

The picture they paint looks like it would fit well in a super hero poster. The successful small business owner is apparently incredibly energetic, always optimistic, forever confident, a fantastic learner and above all, an unabashed risk taker.

Add a few explosions in the background and all I see are visions of James Bond.

The small business owners I know are decidedly not fictional characters. They are real human beings with strengths and flaws as varied as anyone else. It can be disheartening to read these articles and feel that one must be super human to strike out on their own.

That it is all, frankly, nonsense.

No one is born an entrepreneurial super star. Those traits are earned.

You really are creating two things when establishing a small business:

The business itself, and you: the business owner.

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Get Comfortable with Self Sacrifice

Over half of small business owners report that they can never be far from the office, take a vacation, or focus on themselves. That’s right. Half of entrepreneurs sacrifice themselves as much for their businesses as one might for their own offspring.

Does that mean you have to give up your life, your soul and your first born child to this who business thing?

The short answer:  Yes. Though maybe not to those extremes. Recent research has identified three areas of sacrifice in the entrepreneur that are statistically linked to better business outcomes: Relational, Personal and Financial.

So if you aren’t a naturally self-sacrificing person, how do we normal people commit to it?

Redefine “sacrifice” into “investment.”

One of the most powerful abilities of the human brain is to reframe problems and receive emotional gratification. You can relieve a lot of stress and expectations by approaching your time and monetary commitments differently.

Those seventy hours you spent working last week? Those were an investment in your own skills, in your business knowledge and in your passions. The $20,000 out of your own bank account? An investment into a business you could sell for many times more in five years.

I’ll admit, it sounds a little ridiculous. A simple mental switch can really make someone more ready to sacrifice time and money? But keep in mind that our perceptions change everything. Every hour you spend at work is an investment in yourself. Every dollar is one that will make many more for you, the owner.

Redefine your judgements and release the related stress. People will start calling you a “self-starter” before you know it.

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Become a Raving Optimist

In order to make all of those heavy investments, the articles and blogs will have you believe that you must be incredibly optimistic to successfully own and run a small business. 65% of small business owners see their business doing quite well in five years.

However, in 2015 only half of all new establishments will make it to their fifth birthday. Those are not terrible odds, but they aren’t anything to sing from the rooftops either. So how do all of these small business owners maintain such impressive enthusiasm (which then feeds into their determination and investment behavior)?

Trust the System

There is no consensus when the average small business will become profitable (probably because “average small businesses” don’t exist). However the range of time can be anything from three months to thirty years. Profit is a tricky metric to measure. There is personal profit wherein you can make a living wage from your business. And then there is corporate profit: anything above your personal profit.

Optimism comes from the fact that there is no set route. You don’t have timelines or milestones your business “should” be meeting. You are moving forward however your instincts, knowledge and skills guide you.

Keep in mind also that the system often supports you. In 2015, small businesses experienced an average 7.8% annual sales growth. Net profit increased by 7.5%. More jobs were created in the sector than previous years. Firms with fewer than 20 employees now make up over 89% of the 5.68 million employer firms in the US.

Those that naturally look to the future with rose tinted glasses are not the only ones that can start a small business. Look at the statistics, talk with other entrepreneurs and get a handle on what your niche really looks like.

It will be better than you expect.

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Collect Hats

If you want to start a new business, you’re going to need hats. Many, many hats. You’ll need your manager hat. Your accountant hat. Your HR hat. And on. Your mental closet of skills is going to be bursting.

Yet does this mean every small business owner must be a learning addict before they can even think of starting their own establishment? Hardly.

After all, a love of learning can be, well, learned.

Mold Your Environment and Give Yourself the Advantage

Much like procrastination, your environment shapes as much of your behavior as your own will power. If you don’t consider yourself a natural knowledge sponge, try a few of these tricks to bring out the lifelong learner in you.

Small business owners are not James Bonds. We aren’t super human.  We’re usually constrained by both time and resources. Therefore it is not a matter of having. It is a matter of earning.

We must build self-determination by redefining our perceptions and refocusing on our goals. We have to collect optimism by watching the world around us and acknowledging small victories. And we must tailor our environment to support our learning of all the skills we have and need to achieve our goals.

The traits of a successful entrepreneur are not always innate. But that should not steer you away from starting your own business. Rather all you need is a commitment to your passion.

The necessary traits will fall into line.

Back to You: Have you had experiences as a small business owner that taught you these skills? Other skills? Or were you born with them?

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About the Author

Marina is our creative team code wrangler, though she likes to dabble in human languages once in a while too. Read more of her blogs here, or like us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

That would make her day.

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