Business mindset for entrepreneurs and small business owners

This is article 1 in a 3 part series, designed for anyone thinking of starting a business.

Do you have a business mindset, or are you infatuated with the idea of a business?

Once upon a time, I started a business with a close friend. We had been excitedly conspiring and discussing this venture for quite some time before we launched it. The two of us seemed pretty well aligned in terms of interest, excitement and ability to work together, but it wasn’t too long before I realized we weren’t aligned in terms of commitment. The reality was that while I was ready to climb mountains and walk over hot stones for the business, she was not. This became a huge point of contention between us. After some time, we had a heart to heart in which she told me, “I really don’t have that thing you have. At night, I want to watch TV. I’m tired of rejection, and at the end of the day, I just want to get a paycheck.” It was one of the biggest disappointments I had encountered as an adult because I had become so emotionally invested in our success.

I start with this story not because I believe in any way I was better than my friend, but that what I wanted was very different. I had grown up watching my father, uncle and grandfather run their family business. While they worked hard, I admired that they had a level of control over their days and weeks. I had chosen a field of work (graphic design), that was full of self-employment opportunities, largely because self-employment was always something I saw in my future. At the time my friend and I were working together, I was miserably working a job that I liked, but that boxed me into a grueling 9-5 schedule with little mental and emotional time for the things I loved. I wanted more freedom, more flexibility and a greater ability to do what I wanted with my day, and I was committed to making that happen.

As I have consulted with, worked with, and met many entrepreneurs, potential business owners, and dreamers, one thing has been clear: some people have this “entrepreneurship thing,” and some people do not – although I believe everyone can have “it.” After my initial disappointment with the idea my friend and I shared, I realized you can be passionate about something but that doesn’t always equate to a business. It could be a hobby or a short-term interest, and both of these are fine.

While many people get the itch to start a business, not everyone has the personality or tools to necessarily make that business a success. There is definitely a certain mindset that can help set you up for the challenge – because believe me, the excitement and fun parts will often run out, and what’s left after they do, is a lot of hard work that requires clarity and dedication. I’ve put together this list to help you assess your own mindset and assess whether you’re ready to take the plunge.

Is the timing right enough?
I am a strong believer that no time is ever perfect, but sometimes, the time is really, really not right. If you are going through a major life event, illness, in school, or a caregiver, it MAY not be the right time to start a business. At the same time, these obstacles can also be a major motivator if you need to make a lifestyle change or shift. Ask yourself: do you have the time to start a new business? Do you have the energy to start a new business? Success may depend on the amount of physical and emotional energy you have to commit to your business.

Are you pursuing a passion?
If you aren’t pursuing something you are truly interested in, you’ll soon lose interest in doing it as a business also.

Can you balance multiple projects and priorities?
One of the greatest skills a business owner need – especially in the early stages – is managing all the things that need to be done in a business. There is bookkeeping, marketing and legal considerations,  along with selling the actual product or service. And while you may have staff and processes to manage these things, the staff and processes still have to be managed.

Do you have stick-to-it-ness- aka, grit?
My son’s school always emphasizes character traits that breed success. One of the traits that is frequently discussed is grit. Grit is the ability to hang in and on when times get tough. Business ownership comes with a lot of challenges. Being a person who can weather the storm is a crucial trait for a business owner.

Can you quickly change direction, as-needed, without losing sight of big goals?
One of the most challenging aspects of owning a business is the unexpected. You build out a plan, and it doesn’t work. An unknown force effects your business, or you get a piece of information that changes everything. You need to know how to pivot and turn without falling down in order to keep succeeding.

Do you know when to seek input, and when to ignore distractors and haters?
Having a pretty sensitive antenna for knowing when you need help vs. when you want approval is really important, and something I am personally always working to master. On one hand, you need the ability to be humble and receive feedback from those you know and trust. On the other hand, you have to be able to trust yourself and be able to discern good advice from well-intending (but wrong) friends and naysayers. I’ve personally had to fight my inclination to want someone else to ‘sign off’ on my ideas. I now try to trust my own feelings and not wait for outside validation.

Finally….

Do you have an attitude for success?
You believe in yourself enough to win. You believe you can be successful and you are confident enough to plan well and set yourself up for success.

So, what if the answer to some of these questions is no? Congratulations, you’ve done an honest self-assessment. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t’ start a business. The good news is many of the traits that can make you successful can be learned and practiced. Keep focused on areas you want to work on and continue to evaluate if the timing is right for starting your business. And if you answered yes, to most of these questions, take a look at PART 2.
And be sure to check out the mini business planner!