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Life as a Business Owner: Love it or Leave it.

Life as a Small Business Owner: Love it or Leave it

Often times, after paying taxes, struggling with employees and the bottom line, the tired business owner asks, “Is it worth it?” Undoubtedly it is or businesses would be closing left and right (aside from what the economy forces upon us). Nevertheless, business owners that can stay in business, after wrestling with direct and indirect obstacles, must really love what they are doing. In fact, that love and passion will be the driving force to keep the business afloat and the owner sane.

Being in business usually requires struggling for the first two to three years before making a profit. Business owners have to have income to survive while growing the business. Normally, the owner’s spouse supports the family until the business is profitable. When that isn’t possible, the owner needs a large cash injection to operate the business until it is can support itself and the owner.

Financial reasons seem to be the major cause for businesses failures (along with some marriages). The constant strain causes the eager determination, once driving the business forward, to wither and complications arise. Everything that happens in the business affects the family. Wise business owners will involve the family in every aspect of the business to gain their support and understanding. Families can be very supportive in theory when a member is planning to start a business but they do not understand the time that goes into actually starting and operating it. A business owner can expect to spend about 16 hours a day in the business. These kinds of hours usually put a strain on the family. If the family is involved – helping to decrease those added hours and taking a burden off the owner – the strain is lessened.

Another obstacle in a business’s success is managing the business. Staying on top of sales, taxes, and costs are a given in any business, but there are other key activities to consider:

  • Keeping good records (daily),
  • Turning merchandise (replacing popular items and liquidating old merchandise),
  • Paying bills (working with creditors – keeping them informed when payments are late),
  • Keeping good records (daily),
  • Turning merchandise (replacing popular items and liquidating old merchandise),
  • Paying bills (working with creditors – keeping them informed when payments are late),
  • Marketing,
  • Following up with customers, and
  • Managing resources (money, time and people).

Employees can be a huge asset to the business but they can often cause the business owner headaches and stress. Businesses need to know how to interview to hire competent people. It is wise to find an HR advisor or read some books. Developing a list of important questions (about the work to be performed) and asking open-ended questions will help to gather better information about the applicant. Good interviewing skills (filling in gaps, assessing character, and checking references) ensure better employees. Then, for goodness sake, train them properly (handling customers, cleaning, attire, attitude, and duties). Well trained employees are like oil to an engine.

One would think that we’ve covered everything in the life of a business owner, but we still have additional considerations. Protecting the business’s assets might make the difference of whether the business stays opened or closed after an unforeseen disaster. Insurance is the main way to protect assets:

  • Liability insurance covers the business against lawsuits. If a person falls on the premises and sues, liability insurance will cover it. In a food business or where health could be harmed, it is wise to have more than a $1 million in liability coverage. In a service business, often times the customer will require at least that much insurance to cover any damage the service business might do to their property.
  • Fire and Theft insurance will cover the property (if the business owner owns the building), inventory, furniture, equipment, materials, and other items that would be expensive to replace. Even with a deductible, it is wise to fully cover assets (anything of value that belongs to the owner or the business).
  • Worker’s Compensation covers accidents that happen to employees. States require coverage, depending on the number of employees, positions, full or part time, and other factors. Some states require contractors to carry worker’s compensation regardless of whether they have employees. It is important to check with the state (even if only family members are going to be working in the business) to learn the law.
  • Health/Life for the owner is also important. Some owners carry disability insurance on themselves and key employees just in case something happens that could cause the business not to be operational for several months. If the owner is in the hospital, the business continues to gather expenses while losing sales. Not having health insurance for the owner could cause a business to go under. It is also important for the owner to have life insurance to cover the business and personal assets in the event of death – to protect the business and family members left behind.
  • Security Systems help in protecting assets, but they should not be the only protection.

Then, once the business owner has the assets protected, he/she needs to consider operations. Here are some simple but effective ways to operate:

  • Set normal hours of operation (stick to it and don’t vary). Businesses lose customers when they are closed during normal hours.
  • Outline operational tasks (opening the store, closing the store, buying merchandise, making collection calls, making sales calls, going to the post office, delivering, demonstrating products, etc.) and designate time slots for activities; decide who will perform the tasks and set a standard that can be followed each time. Time is money so working everything out on paper will save gas, time, money, and energy.
  • Create checklists to make certain all materials, supplies, equipment are loaded (if a service business) before leaving for a job. Any time the owner has to return to get something or make a trip to the store, the business loses money.
  • Set priorities (the best way to manage time) so that something important isn’t lost in the chaos. Start each morning prioritizing and checking off the list throughout the day.
  • Avoid time wasters (calls from friends, looking for something that isn’t needed immediately, chit chatting with customers). Customers are important and it is always good to spend time with them but limit the time and use communication techniques to help move them out when finished.
  • Prepare a contingency plan (backup or alternative) for illness, crises, or unexpected setbacks. Again it is best to work problems out on paper – assuring it will be easier to deal with if the problem were to happen at a later date. This plan can include who will work in the business or take over the business should a problem arise and incapacitate the owner?

The life of a business owner is filled with challenges along with fulfillment. Remembering that love and passion drive the business, owners can bask in fact that they are doing something that is rewarding – regardless of the work involved. All in all, if business owners work at being better at their jobs (education, training, research, networking), their businesses will reap the rewards and sanity will prevail.

Jennifer Craig

Jennifer Craig

Jennifer has over 30 years combined experience in business consulting, human resources, training, organizational development, and entertainment. In the past, she had worked for a variety of organizations including NMSU, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Universal Studios before joining WESST in 1995. Her BA is in Journalism and Mass Communications, and her graduate work is in Training and Development. She was on the founding Board of the local ASPA (SHRM) group, was named SBA’s Small Business Advocate of the Year in 1997; and has illustrated two books. She enjoys writing and painting.