Imagining being an entrepreneur sometimes sounds like: I can set my own hours! No more job interviews! I’ll be my own boss!

With that job description, it’s a wonder that more people don’t start businesses or stay in business for very long. While there are many true benefits of business ownership, I’d like to begin by bursting some bubbles. 

Yes, the number of hours you work may be under your control, but often the job consists of 12-plus hours a day, six or seven days a week at least for several years. As an owner, you often do all the work yourself or must be on sight to oversee employees. You spend the wee hours on administrative tasks like handling email or doing the bookkeeping.

Sometimes people start a business because they want to make a career move but hate job interviews. The reality is that entrepreneurs are always interviewing — for the next client. My work consists of several new client meetings each week, unscheduled phone inquiries and constant networking. If you hate interviewing, think twice about starting your own business. 

Being your own boss allows for a lot of freedom but can also be stressful. Prior to owning a business, I had a close personal relationship with someone who was an entrepreneur. He truly drove me crazy with the swing from optimism to pessimism. On a good day, he was going to be a millionaire; everyone loved his ideas and services. The next day, he might tell me that the business would fail, and he would be bankrupt and homeless. These ups and downs sometimes happened multiple times each week. I couldn’t understand it at all then, but now that I have my business and my clients are business owners, I realize that either he wasn’t crazy at all, or that all of us are crazy. The ups and downs are a reality of the role.

So what does the life of an entrepreneur look like? What does it take?

People start businesses for a myriad of reasons. They often have a really good idea that they are certain people will buy, or they are sure they can improve lives/the world. They may strike out on their own if they are tired of the corporate structure or think they can do it better than their current employer. In an economic downturn, businesses are born out of the necessity of supporting themselves and their families. 

The big question is: Who succeeds? How do you know if you have the entrepreneurial spirit? Who is happy working in this crazy roller coaster of a world? Successful entrepreneurs have the following common traits:

They are passionate about making things better. They strive to make their product or service better, their processes more efficient, their employees stronger and themselves more advanced.

They are visionaries. They know where they want to go and set goals to get there. All the while, they are willing to make changes in their vision as necessary based on new knowledge or economic circumstances.

They listen. To employees, to customers, to vendors. They look to them as trusted partners. I bought an existing business my first round as an entrepreneur. Two of three banks turned me down for business loans. That business failed in two years. Had I listened to all three of the banks, I probably would not have bought — or lost — that business and a great deal of money.

They are open to constant learning. To keep up, one must be a student as our world evolves. There are always new laws, new technology, new certifications and new philosophies. Taking classes, attending webinars and seminars, talking to other business owners, studying competition. There is never a shortage of things to learn.

They are positive. Entrepreneurs look at change as positive and stay positive in light of uncertainty.

They are risk takers. The reality of being a business owner is they often don’t succeed, often losing all that they have invested in time and money. They must be able to make decisions without fear. They must have the confidence that they can overcome failure if necessary. Resiliency is a plus. Many successful owners have failed at least once before coming up with a winner — myself included!

They’re not defined by age. Some start in their teenage years with an instant winner. Conversely, there is no such thing as being too old. Often, that’s an advantage. Older adults have a lifetime of experience and usually the finances to sustain them.

They have a strong bank account. Money in reserve is a huge benefit in the beginning. One can be successful without the money to invest in growth (I am), but success usually takes longer and officer salaries often are small or nonexistent for some time.

Ready to take the plunge after this read? Go for it and get ready for the ride of your life! JN


Ruth Urban is president and CEO of On the Money LLC, a team of self-proclaimed bean counters, number crunchers and calculation nerds who are forever dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. On the Money’s mission is to help small-business owners take control of their finances by creating systems and tracking tools, then teaching them how to use those tools to make better-informed money decisions.

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