Are You Cut Out To Be Your Own Boss?

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I had an interesting discussion with one of my clients recently. She’s been in business for six months and is ready to quit. (I have permission to share her story.)

She writes,

“I give up. Starting a business is so much harder than I thought it would be, so much more time-consuming. I was hoping to be making a profit by now! There are so many things to do and I’m totally overwhelmed. People don’t seem to want to buy my products and I feel totally rejected. I don’t think I have the personality to be self-employed.”

Hmmmm…interesting. Are there really personality traits that separate born-entrepreneurs from people who can’t hack it?

I’d say yes, some personality traits do matter.

I’ve been self-employed in one way or another since 1981. I’ve known many self-employed people, and have been coaching and mentoring them for years. And over the past years, I see a pattern in successful entrepreneurs versus those who pack up and exit their business.

Here’s my must-have list of personality traits for the successfully self-employed (in no particular order):

  1. Tenacity.
  2. Self-worth.
  3. A sense of humor about yourself.
  4. Willingness to do the dirty work (the tasks that you hate to do).
  5. Willingness to learn new skills.
  6. A deep desire to be independent.
  7. Willingness to take acceptable and calculated risk.
  8. An ability to deal well with people.
  9. A passion for what you do or sell.
  10. Resourceful and creative.
  11. Willingness to ask for help.
  12. Self-disciplined.
  13. Self-motivating.
  14. Willing to do the personality “foundational work” to help yourself and your business.

Notice that I didn’t list any business skills here. You can always learn the business skills you need, or hire someone to do the work for you who does have the business skills you lack.

This list is about who you are and what habits you have. Changing your basic personality style will take effort. That’s why #14 is so important: are you willing to do the groundwork, the personality foundational work, to set the stage for your success?

Naturally, there are some personality traits that are business killers, but that’s another blog entry! 🙂

For you, what’s the most important personality trait you have, that helps when you own your own business?

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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How to Choose a Virtual Assistant

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For over 15 years I worked with an assistant who came to my home office and helped me with the administrative side of my business. When I moved away from the area 18 months ago, I lost her services.

I had two choices: look for another administrative assistant nearer to my new home office, or delve into the world of “virtual assistants.” A virtual assistant does not come to your office. Instead he or she works from their own office and assists you via phone, internet, fax, and email.

When I looked through the list of all the tasks I wanted an assistant to perform, there was no reason why this person couldn’t be located anywhere in the world. After careful research I hired an assistant who lives 2,500 miles away, and although we’ve never met in person, we’ve formed a strong foundation which helps my business run smoothly.

The Benefits of Using a Virtual Assistant

There are many benefits of using a “virtual” assistant versus bringing an assistant into your home office.

  • You don’t have to share your computer, or set up a second computer, for the assistant to use. A VA uses his own equipment and computers. In addition, you don’t have to set up an extra desk in your office for an assistant.
  • Instead of having a fixed schedule of hours each week, with a VA you only pay for the hours you use.
  • You can hire a VA to work a specific numbers of hours per month on a retainer which guarantees availability. Some VAs work on a per-project or per-hour basis as well.
    You can find VAs with specific skill sets, from certified QuickBooks specialists to those with graphic, internet, marketing, or technical skills.
  • VAs own their own business, so they know what it’s like to be self-employed.
  • A VA works as a consultant, not as an employee. Therefore, you won’t have to pay employment taxes or benefits for your VA. (It’s critical that you understand the government rules about employees versus sub-contractors; in the USA, check out the IRS website for the rules

Read the full article>>>


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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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It’s Okay to Think Small

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In nearly every business book I read and from the lips of nearly every business guru I listen to is the premise that you have to grow your business. Grow, grow, grow — think big — and you’ll feel successful. More products, more services, more revenue — and you’ll be happy. Bigger is better, right?

Here’s a secret that I’m going to start shouting from the rooftops: there’s no shame in declaring that you want to keep your business small. This push for growing our business to the next level (whatever that means) might not be the right thing for many of us.

I’m not talking about people who remain small because they’re scared, or because they don’t have the skills or financing to grow big. I’m talking about the people who choose to keep their business small because, after careful analysis, it’s what they really want. There’s an unspoken taboo about saying, “I want my business to remain small,” and I want to halt that taboo.

Read the full article.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Go Look In The Mirror

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Who creates your calendar and books every waking moment of your time? Who asks you to work evenings and weekends to grow your business? Who forces you to work with clients who are not really a good match, or pushes you to sell, sell, sell when you are tired or sick?

Being self employed means you are the boss. You set the agenda. Alan Weiss has written a good blog post about it here.

If you’re unhappy with the way your business is going or how hard you are working, go look in the mirror. And ask yourself: Am I working hard because I have to — or because I THINK I have to?

Sure, there are times when we have to put in that extra effort to get a project done before a deadline. But there are too many self-employed people who complain that they are working 60- and 80-hour work weeks, as if working hard (to the point of illness sometimes!) is going to get you “extra credit” points in Heaven.

StartUp Nation reports from a survey: “80% of small business owners planned to work during the holiday break. 56% said they would even interrupt holiday dinner for an important customer phone call. ”

Did I hear that wrong??? You would interrupt dinner with your family to take a business call on a holiday???

The American Work Ethic tells us we have to work hard to be a good person, a good provider, a good citizen. I’m not against working hard, but if you are working hard all the time, perhaps now is the time to ask yourself, Have I taken the American Work Ethic too far? What’s the point of being self-employed if my boss is a tyrant?

And the next time you are feeling overworked and overwhelmed, cancel an appointment and go for a walk or take a nap. You can’t work at peak performance 24-hours a day.

(P.S. I give you permission to take next Friday off from work. I’m going to!)

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

Do 50 Percent of Small Businesses Really Fail?

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Legend has it that 50 percent of all small businesses fail.

According to an article on MSNBC, two-thirds of small businesses make it past the two-year anniversary. However, only 44% reach their four-year anniversary. Ouch.

The news isn’t all bad. Built into this model are 10 industries that seem to have the highest risk. Failure rates are not consistent across all industries. (See article for this list of 10 industries.)

According to most sources, it seems like the same things bring down a business: lack of business and marketing skill (both planning and implementation of plans), poor cash flow, and heavy debt. Factoring in the risky industries, it may be that some industries are way above that 44% survival rating, while others are drastically below it.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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The Continuing Self-Employment Boom

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From the National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship:

New Census Bureau figures confirm what many experts have long suspected. The US is in the midst of a major boom in self-employment.

2004 data show that 19.5 million Americans are self-employed, and their numbers are growing. Between 2003 and 2004, the number of self-employed grew by 1 million (about 4.7%). Overall, these businesses without employees account for 70% of all US businesses and generate annual receipts exceeding $887 billion.

E-Bay is clearly having an impact as electronic shopping and mail order houses are among the fastest growing sectors (up 12.7%) for new self-employment ventures. Even faster growth can be found among building finishing contractors (up 22.5%), Internet service providers (up 18.7%) and nail salons (up 14.7%).

The July 2006 U.S. Census Bureau report, Nonemployer Statistics 2004, can be accessed at:

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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