Ten reasons why 2011 should be the year you finally start your own business
There must be some reason why some 600,000 new businesses are founded each year, right? Well, based on an informal survey conducted by Inc.com, there are plenty of good reasons to run your own small business. Nearly 500 (462 to be exact) small business owners responded to the survey in which they were asked to name some of the reasons why they prefer to own their own small business as opposed to working as an employee for a larger company. What follows is a list of the 10 most common responses along with thoughts from some of the entrepreneurs who sent them (along with thanks to everyone who participated).
1. You Control Your Own Destiny
Many entrepreneurs consider themselves "Type-A" personalities, folks that like to take control and make decisions. In other words, owning a business saves them from having to work for anyone else. "One reason to own a small business is the ability to direct the culture of your company," says Kasey Gahler, a certified financial planner in Austin who left a big company to start his own business Gahler Financial three years ago. "When you're in the driver's seat, you are making the decisions on how best to steer your company into the future. This might be overwhelming for some and one must know when and how best to delegate. However, when you are able to make your own decisions about how best to operate day-to-day, this leads to creating a culture, a brand and an organization."
2. You Can Find Your Own Work/Life Balance
One of the most oft-cited benefits of owning your own business is the flexibility that comes with it, whether that be working from wherever you want, setting your own hours, wearing a nightgown or even sitting next to your pet while you work. "I get to carry a knife, drive a pickup truck and hang out with my dog a lot more – what can be better than that?" says David Winters, who owns a mobile screen repair business called Screenmobile in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just as important, entrepreneurs say that owning their own business lets them set their priorities. "I make my own schedule, allowing me to spend time with the most important purpose in my life and the inspiration behind my company--my son, Zachary," says Yamile Jackson, whose company, Nurtured by Design, makes ergonomically designed products for babies and toddlers. "He went from having such a traumatic experience at birth (weighing less than two pounds and losing power to his life support equipment) that his story was featured in the TNT movie 14:Hours. He is now my company's CIO (Chief Inspirational Officer) and my healthy 9-year-old boy."
Dig Deeper: 10 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance
3. You Choose the People You Work With
When you work for someone else, you rarely get to choose whom you work with. If you don't like your co-workers you'd better start sending our resumes. That's not the case when you own your own business, since you get to make the decisions about who to hire (and fire). "Over the years, I've hired dozens of personal friends, family members and former business colleagues to work with me in different capacities," says serial entrepreneur Christine Clifford, whose Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based businesses include The Cancer Club and Divorcing Divas. "Why? Because they care about me. Surround yourself with positive people who give you the confidence and optimism you need to keep moving forward. Weed out the people that put out negative vibes. The smaller your organization, the larger choice you have about who you work with."
4. You Take on the Risk – And Reap the Rewards
There's no question that owning your own business is a risky proposition. But, with risk comes reward. Said another way, the better you are at managing risk, the more rewards you can reap. "The thing I enjoy most about the company is playing the 'game' of business," says Mark Dinges, who owns a Tustin, California-based business called California Creations that makes sophisticated windup toys called Z Windups. "It's like combining high stakes poker with the greatest strategy game ever. There are an unlimited number of variables in almost every aspect of the company, and as soon as you think you have things under control in an area, everything changes. Specifically, I like having my own money at risk, then having to live with the consequences of my decisions (good or bad). Like every other great game, the more you play, the better you get. You learn to recognize good opportunities from bad ones. You learn how to look like you are committed to new products, without actually financially committing to it until you have feedback and orders from your customers. You also learn to create exit strategies for bad situations and how to maximize the good ones. The most fun is to work on a project for several years with your team, overcoming all of the obstacles, and then millions of people enjoy it around the world."
Dig Deeper: How to Make Six Figures, Part 3
5. You Can Challenge Yourself
Some people thrive on the routine of their job – performing the same tasks day after day. As an entrepreneur, you can bet that each day will be filled with new opportunities to challenge yourself, be creative and learn something new. "The great thing about owning a small business is I rarely experience the same day twice," says Michael Wilson, co-founder of Mad Dancer Media, a web design and brand management firm in Franklin, Tennessee. "Because every day, I learn something new about the act of owning a business. Whether its something about taxes, about accounting, or the plethora of other things that go into running a company, I am always fascinated by the parts and pieces of knowledge that I learn every day just to keep the business on track."
6. You Can Follow Your Passion
Many entrepreneurs say the long hours they invest in growing their business doesn't feel like work because they're actually having fun in what they're doing. "For me, it was a very conscious choice to make a living doing what I love," says Trish Breslin Miller, who started her craft retail store This Little Gallery in 1989 at the age of 27. "I figured I'd spend more hours of my life working than anything else I'd ever do, so why not make it my passion? I enjoy the satisfaction of promoting and supporting something I truly believe in; American crafts handmade in the USA."
Dig Deeper: 7 Ways to Socialize With Your Employees (Without Getting in Trouble)
7. You Can Get Things Done – Faster
Entrepreneurs as a whole seem to have an allergy to red tape. Rather than wait for approval – or for the guidebook to be written about how to do something – small business owners salivate at the chance to get things done. "Most large companies are too busy being big to be proactive," says Darren Robbins, who owns a screen-printing business in Austin called Big D Custom T-Shirts. "The best that most can do is react quicker than the other big companies when the wave comes at them. My company, on the other hand has the flexibility to be proactive, to run new things up the flagpole and be at the forefront of new products, techniques, or promotional strategies. Never underestimate the ability to truly be proactive."
8. You Can Connect With Your Clients
There are few things that get entrepreneurs as excited as when they get to interact with their customers. Rather than hiding behind a series of automated greetings, small business owners thrive on dealing one-on-one with their best clients – or making the decision to get rid of those customers they don't like. "You don't have to deal with customers who are jerks - you can even fire them," says Brett Owens, whose software company Chrometa makes time-tracking applications. Seriously, we did this once. Back when I did customer service related stuff for larger companies, I had to abide by the mantra of, 'The customer is always right' and there are some rare instances where that is complete BS!"
Dig Deeper: 10 Ways to Support Your Best Customers
9. You Can Give Back to Your Community
Many entrepreneurs love the idea that in building their business, they can give back to the community or communities they operate in the form of the products and services they offer, by donating to charities and especially the ability to create jobs, which is particularly important these days. "I take great pride in knowing that I'm solving a problem others have and creating opportunities for people to have jobs that they love," says Chris Brusznicki, founder of a sports vacation rental business called GamedayHousing. "There's nothing more American than that."
10. You Feel Pride in Building Something of Your Own
One of the biggest differences in owning your own company as opposed to working for someone else is the sense of pride you establish in building something of your own. "There is nothing like being successful through your own leadership, abilities, ideas and efforts," says Peter Leeds, who coaches investors through his business, the Penny Stock Professional. Not only are there benefits from such self-actualization – you also get to brag about what you do. "One really cool thing about owning a small business is that people are interested in you and your story," says Steve Silberberg, who owns a weight-loss backpacking adventure firm called Fatpacking. "Not that I have some egomaniacal need to talk about the business or myself all the time, but it's still nice that people are interested."
Dig Deeper: How to Get Employees Excited About Your Business Vision
DARREN DAHL is a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, NC.