Everyone dreams of being their own boss, but those who have really become one will be the first ones to tell you that it is not as perfect as it would appear. The first thing you have to remember is that there will be no weekly paycheck unless you make one. If you have employees, you have to make one for them as well. Any successful small business owner will advise you that the only way they achieved success was through discipline, organization and good work habits.
The next time you dream about being your own boss, just think about the times when you just didn’t feel like going in that day. Not really sick, but not quite up to the chore of getting yourself out the door. Those days do not exist for the self employed. Whether you are a work at home computer programmer, or an auto mechanic with a small shop, the work doesn’t get done, and you don’t get paid, unless you show up.
Have a schedule
If you decide to hang your shingle as an accountant, your prospective clients have to know when they can reach you, or when they can expect to have an appointment. In some industries, such as accounting, this is normally Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. If you decide your dream business is to own a dress shop, you had better count on being open in the evenings and at least one weekend day. A mechanic will also have to work most Saturdays, although he can close Mondays if his business can afford it and his customers are aware of it. But all of this means you have to be not only on time, but early to work every day. Ten minutes late may work in an office, but how many times do you think a customer will come back when the store’s posted hours are 10:00 a.m. and no one is there at 10:10? Even if you work out of your home, and don’t normally have to see clients, you have to have the discipline to be in your office during certain fixed hours, known to your clients, so that you can be reached by phone or email.
Attend to the nuts and bolts of the business
Many a successful small business has been brought to its knees because the owner did not keep up with the minutia of running the business. If you don’t have a bookkeeper to do it, you have to schedule a morning to pay your bills. (And even if you have a bookkeeper, you may have to schedule a weekly or biweekly meeting with him.) The credit line you were lucky enough to negotiate will be yanked back quickly if you miss an installment. Your present customers may be keeping you busy, but if you don’t manage an active advertisement campaign, you may not have any customers in the future. Even such mundane chores as keeping up with your filing can wreak havoc if you cannot locate an important document when you need it. Schedule administrative time in your week, or hire a part time student or local mom to come in and do it.
Have a back up plan
Barring the days when you just don’t feel like going in, which you no longer have the luxury of, there will be days when you are too sick to work, or have to go to a funeral or some important event. Every small business owner must have a contingency plan for such events. If you are a one man shop, make sure you have a good, professional sounding recording explaining your absence. Don’t rely on your ordinary voice mail that says you will call back. Make it planned and purposeful: “You have reached ABC Accounting. I will be out of the office on Monday November 21and will return your call tomorrow.” You don’t have to say you are sick or at a funeral, but you certainly don’t want your clients or customers ringing you up all day with no answer. If you own a shop or store, you should have a manager who can competently open for you when you are forced to be out.
These work habits are mainly common sense, but is it surprising how many small business owners don’t develop them and find out too late that they should have.
Even as a small business own, you may have to give some of the work to outside sources. Do a criminal background check on anyone you may hire to do bookkeeping or even someone who files your taxes for you.