Start up Business Series: Can you handle being a Business Owner?

Date: 21st July 2016  |  Author: Sean Toomer

This is a question that many potential entrepreneurs (I believe) take all too lightly. It takes a lot to be a business owner; you’ve probably heard different variations/opinions from different people on the good and bad parts of being a business owner, but one thing is certain; it’s damn tough.
You’ll be faced with challenges you didn’t even know you were capable of solving and it takes real mental (and sometimes physical) fortitude to do so.

The bad bits

Let’s start on the negatives; the bad bits of being a business owner. I may well skip over some of the more traditional negatives associates with being a business owner as you’ve probably heard these before, such as working long hours, poor cash flow at the start, risk etc. I would assume that an ordinarily average, dedicated and passionate business owner could cope with these.

No, these are the real tough negatives with being a business owner.

You’ve got 67 different jobs

Well, it may not be 67. It could be 32. Or it could be 132. My point is, at the very start when it’s just you, or even a small team, or even a larger team for that matter, your area of expertise has to increase massively. Your job suddenly consists of Marketing, HR, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Operations, Logistics, Product Design, Client Services… I could go on for ages. And it’s not OK to say you’ll higher outside help. Being a small start up, you won’t be able to afford it. You’ll suddenly have every area of a business conceivable to be responsible for, plus doing the actual work that makes money.

You’re ALWAYS working

Freedom is usually the first good part of being a business owner – or so people tell you. But what you’ll find is that you’re always working. I don’t mean physically, but it becomes a part of life. You go home and you never switch off; you’re always thinking of how to solve the current challenge, or where the next opportunity will come from. It can be very mentally draining and can only really be overcome by a strong desire to succeed.

Incredibly tough decisions

I don’t mean a tough choice such as which logo visual you should go with, I mean tough as in, which two of my best employees should I let go because we simply can’t afford them; what should I pay, rent or rates, as we can only afford one this month.

These types of decisions you’ll undoubtedly come across being a small business owner and they truly are a test of character. I don’t believe most business fail due to cash flow (as per the well known statistic). I think they fail due test of character which the business owner just doesn’t have the guts for (albeit, usually related to cash flow).


Not quite the same as the tough decisions, but certainly related. When I say challenges, I mean dealing with an upset client or employee, or a supplier or struggling with marketing or dealing with a short cash flow.

These are day to day difficulties which will really chip away mentally and a business owner will need to become well versed with dealing with these as matter of course, swiftly and quickly. They already have enough to deal with!

Risking it all

That’s right, risking it all. Leaving your ‘safe’ job and guaranteed monthly income for a chance at the high life. This could even mean putting your life savings, or even house on the line, or even risking getting into personal debt to do so. A business owner needs to have a particularly healthy appetite to risk, but be smart about it.

When looking at risk, it’s best to imagine a worst-worst case scenario. What I mean by that is, let’s say, to start the business, you put in your life savings. Then, you spend it all and the business needs more. So you take out a personal loan, spend that too and still need more, so you borrow from family. At which point do you decide it’s enough and quit? Or do you not?

What most won’t take into account is that when it comes to crunch time, or a certain borrowing limit they set themselves at the time, a passionate business owner may well not call it a day until every available option has been totally exhausted. As it’s their business, their baby, they won’t let go.

The worst-worst case scenario is what happens after the traditional worst-case scenario and you find you’re emotionally incapable of pulling away.

The good bits

If you haven’t been put off already, there are of course wondrous rewards to be had for running your own business.

Be in control of your own destiny

Would you like to make a comfortable living? It’s up to you. Want to be ‘well off’? It’s on you. Want to be broke? You get the point.

I believe it was Henry Ford who said ‘Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t; you’re right’ which is true here.

Whether you want your business to be successful or not, is on you, no one else. It’s you that has to put up with the bad bits, you that has to endure the long hours, the no money, the struggle.

And it’ll be you who enjoys the fruit it bears.

It’s all on you

Most would put this as a negative. Responsibility, for everything, running a business, comes down to you. But, I prefer to think of this as a positive.

There’s something about taking responsibility for your own actions (and others) that I find very satisfying, and I’m sure other business owners would agree to. The buck stops with you,

Customers are upset; that’s on you. Made a big sale; that’s on you. Made a huge loss; that’s on you. Profits are up; that’s on you.

Providing others with a better quality of life

That’s assuming you’re a great boss! You’ll note I haven’t mentioned money under ‘the good bits’ yet. That’s because money in its self I would not treat one of the best bits of being a business owner; but what it can do.

The lucky ones who get to work with you and the environment you’ve created. It’ll be phenomenal to see the impact your business has on their lives. This includes the opportunity, security, confidence, guidance and development you provide for them.


I won’t say a lot on this. But Arnold Schwarzenegger said ‘Money doesn’t make you happy. I was just as happy with $49m as I am now with $50m’.

What to do now?

If you haven’t been put off, and those of you strong enough to be business owners wouldn’t be, get to it! Create your world, be the master of your destiny!

Also, look out for our next blog in the series, which will be released next week – Market Research – will your idea work?

Missed our previous blog in this series? Start up Business Series: The Idea:

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