IMHO :) 6 Characteristics of Small Business Owners

Happiness is being a small business owner.

People ask why I only work with Small Businesses in the U.S.

Because American Small Business owners are Passionate and crazy about their business! Not that there is anything wrong with working for a corporation, but there are just too many levels between the floor and the rooftop for most small business owners – including me.

Small business is family. Small business is passion. Small business is the reward in the thrill of succeeding with recognition – or despite the lack of!

(IMHO) Characteristics of Small Business Owners – including me:

  • OCD – Obsessed with their business
  • ADD – Simultaneously thinking of 12 things while still noticing something else – and calling it multi-tasking
  • Narcoleptic – capable of falling asleep at a desk at any time (or even standing up) because of staying up nights working on new ideas
  • Insatiable – can’t get enough of business-related reading
  • Clueless – unable to notice they haven’t eaten all day or taken a break or missed a family birthday
  • Annoyingly Happy – Friends and relatives don’t understand how they work so many hours and be thrilled to do it

There is nothing more contagious than the energy of a small business owner!

Imho – What is the #1 reason for business failure among small business owners?

I ran across this question by in LinkedIn Answers

English: Findlay, Ohio, September 20, 2007 -- ...
English: Findlay, Ohio, September 20, 2007 — Gilbert Yingling, a representative with Small Business Administration (SBA) makes calls to local business owners from a local chamber of commerce business directory as part of an SBA outreach program. He then follows up with person to person meetings with the business owners. John Ficara/FEMA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Although there has been an increase in support services for entrepreneurs and small business owners, the percentage of business failures in America is still pretty high. Across industries it is averaged that 56% of businesses will fail within the first four years. In some industries, it is estimated to be as high as 86%. All of these businesses may not have had outdated products or underperforming services. Again, what do you think is the number reason for entrepreneur and small business failure?”

As I work exclusively with small businesses, I chipped in with my own answer because I see how many of these failures could have been stories of success. 9 to 5 has done a lot of harm to those of us with entrepreneurial potential. Being an employee for someone else can push you to forgo your own ideas for someone else’s in many cases. You may get used to letting go of responsibility in many ways, as in some companies, you are actually penalized for thinking outside the box, and are asked to settle into the status quo of the management mentality.

What does that mean in regard to these failure rates? In my opinion (I have a lot of those!), many a creative, entrepreneurial minds have been dumbed down by the “Peter Principle” experience of corporate work. So even when those same minds finally break loose and go on their own, they have ingrained habits that keep them in an employee mentality. That is why I wrote this answer to Davette Harvey’s question in LinkedIn Answers and hope that by sharing it with you, it will help one less SMB from failing.

Here is my response to Davette’s question. I’d love to hear what you think as well.

“If you own a small business, and don’t think beyond today, then you are nothing but an employee of your own business.

I used to train new retail franchisees as part of my corporate job with a franchisor and so many of them stunned me in regard to the lack of due diligence they executed before purchasing the franchise. In addition, very few of them had retail experience. Coming from a desk job, no matter how high the level, is not immediate qualification for running your own business.

Now I consult for them – and often they call me in far too late.

Yes, passion can take you far, but if you are like many small business owners, the inability to delegate the details is where you begin to lose the passion that drove you there to begin with.

Start out of the gate with lining up the right people for the various jobs and it will be the best ROI you can imaging. If a business owner tries to do it all, they lose the momentum of the opening due to being sucked into the daily operations that should be handled by those best suited. You need to have continued vision, oversee those who work for you, and market your business through networking and planning. If you are working in your store full time, you cannot do any of that.

The perceived lack of funding to delegate to employees is a result of waiting until business slows to recognize the errors. Customer service suffers, control over inventory suffers, marketing suffers… it all suffers including the owner who, by that time, is burned out.

Think of your well chosen staff as an investment in your business just the same as the brick and mortar building and the inventory or tools you placed in it. Then you will be free to oversee and grow it, you will prosper.

All too often I see the staff is the first to go when things slow down. They should be the last tier of the business to be let go. Check your operations, customer service, inventory, scheduling, etc.

And most of all, ask the staff, they know more than you oftentimes. Most common observation I hear from staff? “if the boss would just get out of the way and let us do our jobs…”

Please feel free to share your opinions….

“Screw it, let’s do it!” – The Art of Self-Motivation from Richard Branson:

Cover of "Screw It, Let's Do It (Expanded...
Cover via Amazon

“Screw it, let’s do it!” says Richard Branson in this piece on how he stays motivated in business – even at 60.

This article (link below) is an excellent read for anyone in business – especially in this time of economic recovery when business people are still a little skittish about moving forward.

The Art of Self-Motivation : Managing :: American Express OPEN Forum.

Too many business owners get in their own way of success and over-complicate their business…especially when it comes to listening to and serving their own customers. Don’t just follow others, – seek out new challenges! Your customers are trying to tell you what they want every day. Listen to them. And what have you got to lose? Customers are especially hungry for excellent customer service and something really worthy to purchase since they are now more prudent with their spending.

I am a big fan of Sir Richard. He not only has overcome so many obstacles to get where he is, but he always gives back. Some nice guys do finish first!

I hope that after reading Sir Richard’s article, you aspire to take a leap or two! I just learned he also has a book of the same name (pictured) – I’ll be checking that out, too!

P.S. Thanks American Express Open for these great articles!

How Not to Act Old at Work – MORE Magazine

Business Boomers – stay cool at work – but not in the old fashioned way…

Remember when we were young and we thought our bosses were so “out of it”? Well, now we are the bosses and frankly, I’ve seen too many boomer bosses look pretty “out of it” with a fair share of their  staff rolling their eyes behind their backs!

Get back “with it” with these tips from More Magazine! Click this link to read:

How Not to Act Old at Work – MORE Magazine.

Passion can be contagious!

we posted everyone's ideas for vision/mission ...
Image by Shira Golding via Flickr

Are you Passionate about your business? It’d be a little ridiculous to own a business if you weren’t, and you can tell when someone is/isn’t, can’t you?! At any rate, a lot of business owners who are passionate about their business may forget how to make that passion contagious to their staff.

Employees can easily slip into a rut of just doing their job to get paid and have no connection to purpose or mission. Why?  Because maybe you forgot to share that passion with them! Seriously, it happens all the time. Just because you think your biz is the greatest thing since sliced bread, you think everyone else thinks so, too! Here’s the tough truth – NOT necessarily!

You have to share that sense of purpose. I have observed owners working like dogs running rings around an indifferent staff – mostly because they haven’t instilled a sense of the business’ purpose into their staff.

Recognize that not everyone will automatically share your excitement and drive for success. But how can you motivate them? You need to share your emotions, thoughts, desires, goals, and everything that goes along with running your business.

  • Start with a mission statement! Why are you in business? Look at other businesses mission statements to get started. Make it a team project with everyone throwing in their ideas of what they think your business is about. Very enlightening! And for help, try
  • Find out what part of your business IS exciting to your individual staff members and start there. This can help you learn what tasks are best to delegate to whom and to see where they need more training.
  • Learn what works for them – just because you are intrinsically motivated, they aren’t. Everyone is motivated differently, and you’ll be far more successful if you are using the right motivations.

Passion is contagious if you don’t keep it all to yourself!