Running your own business is very much like riding a roller coaster. Sometimes fun and exciting, other times quite scary. During the more challenging times, you just have to keep on pushing forward because the tipping point – the point at which your business takes off – is just around the corner and will come when you’ve got sufficient momentum. Running your own business gives you a fantastic opportunity to grow and develop as a person because you’ll have to develop new skills, broaden your network and become very resilient. So if I were starting out again, what advice would I give to myself and others starting on this exciting journey?

1. Examine Your Heart

It may sound obvious but the first step to starting a small business is to examine whether or not this really is the right option for you. What is your WHY? The main quality you’ll need is burning desire – because running a small business isn’t for the ambivalent or indifferent. You have to really, really want to be your own boss, to transform your dream from ideas into reality and to market your product or service. So take a good look inside yourself and ask yourself these three key questions:

  • Do I really want to operate independently and be the person making all the decisions and shouldering all the responsibility?
  • Am I willing to work hard and make the sacrifices starting a small business entails?
  • Do I have the self-confidence and self-discipline to enable me to persevere and make my enterprise a success?

2. What Do You Want From Your Life?

For many of us, the reason we run our own business is because it gives us the freedom and flexibility – be that time or creativity – to live the life of our choosing. When choosing the right business model, it’s essential that you think through your personal priorities and values so that these align with your business goals and plans. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What sort of future do you want to create for yourself and your family? Where do you want to live? How much money do you want to earn? What sort of lifestyle do you want to have? Is the income potential of your dream business likely to meet your future lifestyle aspirations? How have you planned for your retirement?
  • What are your personal values and how will these affect your business idea?
  • Is more time with your family a key priority in which case would a business model that allows you to work more flexibly be a better option?
  • What’s your level of tolerance to risk? If your tolerance levels are fairly low or your family needs a high level of security, a low risk, low investment business model may be a better option for you.

At the risk of sounding like I’ve come back from California, I find vision boards are a great way of helping me to conceive and visualise what I want – and making them is a lot of fun! Basically you cut out any pictures from magazines and travel brochures that represent the lifestyle and business you want, paste these onto a board or into a scrapbook and put this where you can see it on a regular basis. You can find out how to create your vision board at

3. Do You Have The Characteristics Of An Entrepreneur?

There are certain traits and attitudes that make some people more suited to running a successful small business than others. The seven most highly ranked qualities are perseverance, the desire and willingness to take the initiative, competitiveness, self-reliance, a strong need to achieve, self-confidence, and good physical health.

If you think about it, none of these are particularly surprising – you’d expect a successful entrepreneur to be self-reliant and self-confident for example. You may not have thought about the need to be physically healthy, but this is important. You can’t afford to have colds and flu bugs, and you need high levels of stamina to run your own business. The characteristics ranked as least necessary for business success may surprise you however; these include a strong desire for money, patience, being well organised, and having a need for power.

4. What Skills And Abilities Do You Need To Become Successful?

The skills and abilities you’ll need for running your own business include:

  • Self-motivation and personal discipline
  • Resilience and the ability to sustain a positive mind-set
  • Business and industry knowledge
  • Marketing skills
  • A thorough understanding of how to sell
  • Customer relations
  • A supportive network and quality contacts in your chosen field

List which other skills and abilities you’ll need for your chosen area of business. Then, together with the ones above, score these on a scale of 1-10 according to how capable you are. Those areas which rank lowest should be prioritised for training and development. Put simply, your level of business success will be determined by the level of your weakest skills. You may offer a high quality product or service, but if you don’t know how to market or sell it effectively, your business will really struggle.

5. Do Your Research

You must sit down and put together a proper business plan for your idea and plan your business. Even if you aren’t asking for outside investment, you must know how much starting up your business will cost and what the running costs are. Write down everything, including the cost of light bulbs and toilet paper. This may sound silly but all these items are part of your business plan. Be honest with yourself and, if anything, overestimate. This will give you a financial cushion that you may need further down the line. Once you’ve put together the figures, you may find that your idea is not financially viable. Don’t lose heart. Look at whether some aspects of your business are more scale-able than others.

Research the market for your product or service. Identify who your ideal prospects and customers will be, and find a way to talk to them about your business idea. Find out everything you can about them. Where they buy similar services? Which factors influence their decision making? What are they looking for in a supplier?

6. Join Industry Organisations and Networking Groups

It’s a good idea to join these organisations and groups before you start your business so that you meet people in your chosen industry who can offer help and advice. They may even help you to narrow your focus and clarify your particular niche or USP. Most business owners enjoy sharing information about their business and discussing how they achieved their success. They’re usually happy to give a hand to someone who is passionate about their own industry or their services, and may even be willing to act as a business mentor.

7. Ignore The Critics

One of my favourite sayings is “Never pay attention to those who tell you that something cannot be done or that it will never work. These will be the same people who, once you are successful, say they knew it would work all the time.” Likewise don’t let people who’ve never run their own business before put you off and steal your dreams. Sometimes people want to see you fail because they do not have the courage to take the risk themselves. But in many cases family and friends simply want to protect us. Believe in yourself, focus on your goals and ignore those who have not ‘walked the talk’ before. There will be days when you do feel like throwing in the towel. But in order to be successful, remember it isn’t how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up!

Next time, I’ll look at the key business models – from having your own ‘bricks and mortar’ location through to online, franchising and direct selling. And I’ll explain the key questions you should ask yourself when considering these different options.