Starting Your Own Small Business

By Laura Benjamin

So, you think you want to start your own home-based business? Do you dream of sitting in front of your computer in a bathrobe, revel in the idea of calling your own shots, and laugh out loud at the morning traffic report?

Launching a business from home is more of an option than ever before. Massive downsizing, early retirements, and access to technology have fuelled a trend that continues to grow.

But how does one begin? There are numerous books that outline the practical issues of starting and running a business, which include whether to incorporate or work as a sole-proprietor, what equipment to purchase and the pros and cons of hiring employees.

This is all valuable information, but what about the other issues? You know, the things nobody tells you in advance - the things you learn only through experience, including:

Embrace the fear!

It's 3 a.m. and you can't sleep. Your expenses are high, accounts-receivables are low, the computer just crashed and your teenager needs braces. Cash flow is always a juggling act. You never know when you'll get sick in the midst of a critical project, or discover your invoice was lost on someone's desk and payment won't happen for yet another two weeks. This is the way it is!

Get used to experiencing gut-wrenching fear. If you allow yourself to be paralyzed by it, you won't see the resources or options at your disposal. (It's hard to be resourceful when you're curled up in a fetal position!) Admit it's there, identify why, ask yourself what's the worst that can happen; then brainstorm solutions. Fear can be a powerful catalyst on the road to new discoveries.

The myth of being an "expert."

Just because you haven't worked in a particular industry or career field for 25-plus years doesn't mean you haven't accumulated knowledge others would find valuable. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning "expert" to grow a successful business. There will always be those who know more than you, but there are also a significant number who don't and are willing to pay you to help them learn.

Take time to inventory your talents, skills, and knowledge. Make a master list of what you've learned and accomplished over the years, then categorize them into functions. Just this process alone will give your self-confidence a boost.

Commit to succeed - no matter what.

Half the battle of making a business work is the determination to hang in there, no matter what! Many of those who fail give up before they've really given themselves a fair chance to succeed. It's a different mindset than thinking, "Well, I'll give it a try, and if it doesn't work I can always go back to a regular job." It's not always fun, it's definitely not easy, and it takes grit and persistence to stay with it for the long haul.

Set benchmarks for yourself along the way to provide inspiration and motivation to continue, and as a way to look back and take pride in your accomplishments. They could be chronological, financial, or other goals, like professional recognition, a patent or expanding your business into another state or country. Celebrate your successes by issuing a press release, hosting an open house, or giving yourself a promotion!

Learn how to fire a client.

Make room for the right work to come into your business. There's an interesting dynamic at play here. If you are so busy handling clients who are low-paying or troublesome, you won't recognize the right work when it does come your way. It's similar to the trapeze artist who learns to let go of the bar and hangs briefly in mid-air before grasping hold of the one that swings to meet him.

At least annually, take a hard look at what you're doing, for whom, and for how much. Be willing to decline the work or refer it elsewhere. It's a leap of faith, but a necessary one if you plan to grow and develop.

Don't underestimate the power of "word of mouth."

People are going to hire you because someone recommended you, they know you, like you and trust you. Cold calls work if you don't mind playing the numbers, but it's a brutal way to build a business. Instead, spend your time and energy cultivating long-term relationships with no expectations of WIIFM (What's in it for me?). Be a resource for others with a generosity of spirit and an "abundance" mindset. Offer free information, support or advice when asked. Focus more on how you can be of service to them.

There's no such thing as balance.

You won't ever have enough time, money, or energy to do it all. As with anything, it's a minute-by-minute choice of how best to allocate your resources. Working from home allows you the freedom to "blend" and overlap tasks vs. compartmentalizing work and family. But it also offers distractions that sometimes make it difficult to draw boundaries. A private workspace, flexible schedule, and allowing yourself the "luxury" of time off from time to time will help balance the scale.

One of the biggest benefits of overlapping work and home is the ability to model a self-sufficient lifestyle for your children. They see firsthand how to drum up work, troubleshoot equipment problems and deal with the disappointment of losing an important piece of business. They learn what it's like to be resilient, resourceful and self-reliant through the best and worst of times.

The best part.

Starting and running a business from home can be the best of all worlds. It opens up a new way of living, working and thinking that transcends job descriptions, performance reviews and benefit programs. You gain flexibility, independence, a wide range of experiences, and become keenly aware of how short the distance is between choices you make today and income you earn tomorrow. For those who do more than just dream about it, nothing compares to owning your own business for sharpening your creativity, determination, decision-making skills, humility and confidence!


Laura Benjamin speaks, writes, and consults internationally on Human Relations and Business Development issues. She is a BBB member and 2001 President of the Colorado Springs Society for Human Resource Management. Her clients include FrontRange Solutions, the United States Army, and the United States Olympic Committee. To subscribe to her free email newsletter, visit her website at or call 719-266-8088.

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