There are some people who grow up knowing that one day, they want to be self-employed. Perhaps their parents had their own business, or maybe they’ve simply always enjoyed coming up with bright ideas and making a bit of extra pocket money through their own endeavours.
Personally, I never thought I'd run my own business. It simply never occurred to me, either as a child or a young adult. I was happy working in Marketing and I didn't see myself as 'entrepreneurially minded'. And yet here I am on business number two.
And if I can do it, anyone can:
do the hard work involved in running a business;
find their own brand of creativity, and do things they never even anticipated;
learn about what makes a business succeed, and make it happen for themselves;
even fall in love with being a business owner!
One of the things I find fascinating is how people enter into the world of owning a business. This is something that can really vary, and in fact, I’ve created two businesses in two very different ways.
Over time I’ve identified three different types of business owners, and three different approaches to getting started.
The Great Idea
Some people have a very clear idea of the business they want to set up. They have a skill, service or product that they want to sell. They might also have a desire to be in control of their own working life, to set their own targets, standards and boundaries.
For these people, a business idea niggles away at them until they almost have no choice but to take a leap of faith, and give it a go. Often, they start their business on the side, working away at it until it can support them full time.
They're driven by their belief in what they have to offer, and are passionate about what they do. This carries them through the inevitable tough days, and enables them to keep going until they succeed.
The great idea that drives someone to start a business, is likely to be something they are passionate about, and that makes them happy.
Monetising this idea and building a business around it can take some of the enjoyment out of it, especially in the early months.
To negate this risk, go slowly: begin small, perhaps with a basic website and a little social media. Reduce street by building the business up on the side of your day job, so that you’re under no financial pressure. And make sure to create boundaries to protect your personal life and the things that make you happy.
The Natural Entrepreneur
Others seem to be born with the 'entrepreneur seed' inside of them. They love a money-making scheme, spend their childhood selling lemonade on street corners (or whatever the modern equivalent is!), and feel determined to create their own success.
They might not have a passion, product or service to sell, but they are willing to take anything and turn it into a successful business through sheer grit and hard work.
Natural entrepreneurs are willing to take calculated risks, and because they're not afraid to fail they'll give multiple things a try until they find the 'right' thing. Their creative minds can see how to take an idea and turn it into a success.
My first business, a pop-up events agency, was developed in this way. An entrepreneurial friend really wanted to set up a business, and had several ideas.
They were all things outside of our sphere of experience, but we were willing to give them all a try until we figured out which one generated demand, and therefore created an income for us both. As he put it, he wanted to "throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks". Honestly, it was hard work but fun! And it helped that initially there wasn't much pressure as we had other income streams.
This method of building a business is exciting, but it is also easy to get swept along with something that is not sustainable. This might be in terms of the amount of work required impacting work / life balance, or the business becoming something you didn’t plan for.
In my experience, after three years of running a successful business, I found that it was increasingly diverging from my values. I established that a business that fulfils me is more important than the success and revenue it generates.
However, my naturally entrepreneurial business partner was still getting a lot of satisfaction from the business; his nature ensured that as long as he was running his own business he was reasonably relaxed about the type of business and work required. Entrepreneurship and business success was his reward.
Before proceeding with building a business in a ‘go with the flow’ mentality, consider what kind of person you are, and what will make you happy in the long-term.
Some people (myself included) become accidental business owners.
They team up with an friend for fun project, or find that their creative outlet has taken off and needs their full attention.
These entrepreneurs learn as they go, gradually uncovering the joys and benefits of running their own business. And often these people never look back.
Accidental business owners often find themselves on a journey of self-discovery, and they might discover that they want to love what their work.
When I found myself as an accidental business owner alongside my Natural Entrepreneur friend, I enjoyed it for a time; I enjoyed running the business and learning more and more each day. And yes, I enjoyed the success! But I didn't love the work I was doing, slowly but surely felt less satisfied as a result.
Reflection and careful consideration can enable these business owners to turn it around however. Once they learn what light them up, they can use the skills and experience they have acquired to transition from an accidental to intentional business owner.
After all, "maybe everything had to happen exactly as it did, to get you to where you're going next".
Top Tips for Making it Work
Play to your strengths: This might include people management and development, which can translate well to coaching. And a background in corporate marketing and communications can provide skills that are invaluable in setting up and promoting a businesses.
Work harder than everyone else: In order to make a business idea work needs hard work. A business owner has to ve prepared to do everything themselves at first, from the mundane to developing strategy to telling people what it is that you do. And doing the actual thing of course!
Feel the fear and do it anyway: This can be one of the greatest challenges. Pouring yourself into your business, and then putting your idea out there is scary; you're making yourself vulnerable. But would you rather regret the things you did, or the things you didn't do?