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Is Business Ownership for You?

by Robin Ryan, Author & Career Counselor

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Many of us fantasize about owning our own companies. Nearly one million new businesses are launched each year, but over 85% will close within five years. There are some key indicators on who will be most effective as owners. Take this quiz to help you determine if you have the burning desire, discipline, and resources to become your own boss.

Are you a self-starter?
It will be up to you, not someone else, to develop the business, organize the projects, manage your time, and follow through on details.

Can you handle the uncertain financial risk?
Businesses all have cycles, the ebbs and flows in profitability. Once it's launched you'll have overhead and operational expenses that must be met before you get paid.

Do you have good business skills — accounting, business planning, operations, sales, marketing and customer service?
You must attract customers. New and repeat customers are the lifeblood of your business. You must possess or learn these skills to survive and succeed.

Do you have the stamina needed to run a business?
Business ownership is a lot of work. Can you face 12-hour workdays, six or seven days a week, every week?

Are you motivated by achievement?
Many entrepreneurs get great joy out of the daily "wins" they get from doing business. They find it's a competitive game and a satisfying way to fulfill their instinct to achieve. They have fun doing it. These people have a passion and driving desire to come in first. They are doers and want to derive benefits from their efforts and labor. They are unlikely to get "burned out" or worn down by carrying all the responsibilities of the business on their shoulders.

Are you a good decision-maker?
Business owners are required to make decisions constantly, quickly, under pressure and independently. Do you research and examine all options on important decisions to minimize your risk, but then decide and go forward?

How well do you handle different personalities?
Business owners need to develop working relationships with a variety of people including customers, vendors, staff, bankers and professionals such as lawyers, accountants or graphic artists. Your ability to successfully deal with demanding clients, unreliable vendors or cranky staff people in order to benefit your business will directly impact your success.

How will the business affect your family?
It's hard to balance work and family demands during the first few years after starting a new business. There may also be financial difficulties until the business becomes profitable, which could take months or years. You may have to adjust to a lower standard of living or put family assets at risk. Can your family deal with the challenges business ownership requires? Although many entrepreneurs go on to make large incomes, the "lean years" are a necessary part of the evolution and business growth cycle. Equally important to consider are the many job perks — paid vacations, sick days, medical and dental insurance, stock options, cars, health club memberships — that disappear when you own the company. Think about the extra costs you will now incur.

How will you deal with the isolation?
Once you go off on your own, you'll be just that — ALONE. Can you deal with being isolated? Will you miss the status, respect and collegial connections that you had while working for an employer other than yourself? Don't underestimate this — it's the reason many consultants and service business owners close their own operations and re-enter the corporate world.

Can you go two or three years without an income?
List start up resources to buy/start and run your business. Note sales and breakeven points as well as profit projections. Be conservative in your estimates on how fast you’ll be able to turn a profit. Develop family and business budgets that support you and your family while your business is beginning to grow.

If you have doubts, talk to your family and friends about the changes you are considering. Interview people who have recently started a new business to learn about their experiences and challenges. If you can confidently answer yes to all of these questions, then go for it. You've got what it takes to build a successful business.

Copyright 2006 Robin Ryan. All rights reserved.

America's most popular career counselor, Robin Ryan, is the author of four bestselling books: 60 Seconds & You're Hired!, Winning Resumes, Winning Cover Letters, and What to Do with the Rest of Your Life. She's appeared on over a thousand TV & radio shows including Oprah, Dr. Phil, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, CNN, and CNBC, and has been published in most major newspapers and magazines including USA Today & the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Ryan may be reached via e-mail at

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