10 Signs You Shouldn't Be A Small Business Owner

Thinking about starting your own business? Take a moment to read the signs. While no single sign here guarantees failure, any one of them wi
Partner, Mueller Creative, LLC
April 26, 2011

Thinking about starting your own business? Take a moment to read the signs. While no single sign here guarantees failure, any one of them will certainly make success in business much more difficult than it already is. The good news, however, is even if you see yourself in this list, you can overcome any of these traits and rewrite your signs.

The essential requirement is to be honest with yourself. If you find that you're nodding in agreement, step back and work on improving in those areas first, then tackle business ownership later.

1. You can't make decisions

Making decisions doesn't mean you need to make every single decision (that's what we call micromanaging), that you have to deliberate for hours over the ones you do make (that's what we call procrastinating), or that you have to make decisions following a certain procedure or managerial methodology. You do have to be able to make the call, one way or another, move that decision into action, and then deal with what happens as a result of that action, good or bad.

An indecisive leader wastes time trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has passed by. In business, taking too long to make a decision on how to proceed means you lose the chance to proceed.

2. You won't take responsibility

If you're known among friends and family as the Master Excuse Maker, don't open a business, at least not until you get a handle on being the one who doesn't invent excuses but takes responsibility. The fun thing about being a business owner is that you get to be in charge; and the worst thing about being a business owner is that you have to be in charge—hence, the bottom line depends on you.

No matter whose fault a mistake is, as the head of your business, you have to own everything that goes on in your business, bad and good. An unhappy customer doesn't want to hear about why it's your employee's fault. An unhappy investor doesn't want to hear about why the economy didn't turn out the way you expected it to. Learn to claim responsibility for what happens in your life before you jump into owning a business.

3. Your only motivation is money

You can certainly get rich as a business owner; many people have. Many (more) people have also lost money attempting to start and run businesses. If you aren't in it for more than the money, you'll find your motivation wavering. Building a successful business takes time, usually a long time. Failure is part of the process. You have to have an internal motivation, a desire to succeed, an intrinsic ambition or motivation that moves you forward even without the fat paycheck.

4. You swing between extremes

If your moods have two points on the psychological map, one being "extremely depressed" and the other being "unrealistically optimistic," then you're in for a rough ride as a business owner. The ability to keep an even keel will help you deal with the challenges you'll face as a business owner. If a minor setback can take you down into depression, you might not be equipped to run a business.

You've also got to be able to temper your excitement and enthusiasm and look at possibilities from a realistic angle. Extreme emotional swings will mean that investors won't take you seriously, employees will run away in terror, and customers won't know what to do with you, so they just won't do anything.

5. You can't overcome chronic disorganization

Do you have piles of paper on your desk, and can never find the one you want? Never quite got that filing system set up? Is it your habit to live in clutter and disorder and simply try to survive despite the problems it causes? Are you perpetually late paying bills because you don't have an efficient system?

These dis-organizational habits can doom your fledgling business. No, you don't have to be an alphabetized, color-coded, organizing wizard; you do have to be able to operate efficiently and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

6. You have no track record of completion

If your past is a manuscript of opening paragraphs without any conclusions, you need to step back from the business arena until you've proved that you can take an idea from initial spark to end result. Ideas are great, and they're the food of innovation; but action that leads to results must be part of how you live, or your business will flutter, like you, from one great idea to another. A lack of completion means a lack of success. Get a good track record first; achieve some things; reach some goals; then evaluate where you are.

7. You have no support system

Being a business owner is difficult, at best. If your friends scoff and your family isn't supportive, you'll be waging a lonely war against the forces of internal resistance, organizational disaster and economic disinterestedness. The economy isn't going to reach out and pull your business up; you'll have to deal with your own personal weaknesses as you take one step after another toward building a good business. If you've got no personal or emotional support, and no mentors to call for advice, your chances of success are slim.

8. You are addicted to the familiar

It's a whole new world in business. Marketing is changing, the economy is in turmoil, the way of business-as-we-know-it is shifting in terms of product demand, distribution, processes and technology every day. Pity the business owner who takes refuge in the comfort of what is familiar, because what is familiar is quickly becoming what is obsolete.

While you hide behind what you know from the past, your business will languish in the present and, most certainly, die in the near future. As a business owner, you have to be able to let go of the familiar and deal objectively and fearlessly with the new that will present itself to you every day.

9. You never set your own limits

Being a business owner is appealing to many because they get to be the boss. If the only reason you want to be in business is to be completely independent, to live without limits and revel in your rebelliousness, good luck. You'll need it.

As a business owner, you'll find that you need to put forth your own resolve, your own measure of discipline, your own rules, and then you'll need to live by them. That doesn't mean you have to do things traditionally. It means you have to identify and rein in your own unruly tendencies in order to get the job done and run a company that can sustain itself.

10. You don't keep your word

Honesty is fundamental. Whatever may change in business, from marketing methods to product offerings, an essential requirement for any successful business is that it does what it says it will do. You can't make promises and break them; you can't offer products and fail to follow through; you can't make guarantees and then conveniently forget them. You might make a good first run, before customers figure out that you can't be trusted. But trust is integral to successful relationships between consumers and business, and you can't build trust without honesty.

If you're already a business owner, do you see yourself in any of these descriptions? If so, maybe the best way to improve the operations and profitability of your business is by changing something about yourself.

Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget start-ups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia's Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @AnnieMueller.

Partner, Mueller Creative, LLC