If you’re like many people in the U.S., then you may have at least considered owning and operating your own business. It’s the American dream. It’s the American way. It’s the lifeblood of the American economy.
But entrepreneurism is not for everyone.
In fact, only about 10 percent (or 15 million) of the nation’s workforce is self-employed, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of them are successful enough to be their own bosses, but don’t employ enough people or generate enough revenue to be considered anything else. Maybe they don’t want to be anything else.
Entrepreneurs at their core share a pride in and passion for building something good from scratch.
Sound like you?
Some indications that your entrepreneurial itch may need scratching:
- You’re successful but unsatisfied. In other words, you’re not finding the climb up the corporate ladder personally or professionally rewarding.
- You daydream about another type of work. While you’re working. You’ve found your best performance comes from having the autonomy to develop and implement your ideas with limited interference. (i.e. You’re not just checked out. You’re already checked in someplace else.)
- You have plausible ideas about how to do something better, faster and/or cheaper. Your current employment situation can be a launching pad for your personal innovation, or it can be an obstacle.
- You’ve said it out loud. You keep making comments to family, friends, even your dog about setting up your own shop.
A typical entrepreneur spends months, even years kicking around an idea or just building up the courage to take the leap. When you recognize a kindling inside it’s a good idea to slowly and deliberately fan it by pondering these and other important questions:
- What motivates you? If it’s instant piles of cash you’re after, then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment – or massive failure. But if you get giddy seeing the fruits of your own labor, then you may have what it takes to strike out on your own.
- What is your end goal? If you want more free time with family, then you might be better off with a traditional 9 to 5. Small business owners will tell you: It’s nonstop. But if you have a burning desire to break new ground in a specific field then that might fuel all the energy and passion you need. Think about what your ideal scenario looks like.
- How do you deal with risk? If you already have a steady income and still lie awake at night thinking about bills, then the burden of running a small business may set your hair on fire. If you’re an optimist who’s not afraid of uncertainties then it may not be a factor. Every small business owner incurs some risk; only you can determine how much is comfortable.
- Can you ignore outside influences? If you’ve always been in line for the family business, but don’t have the passion for it, then you – and the business – are probably better off going another route. But if you’re presented with a timely opportunity that feels right, then maybe it is. You just need to be able to decide what is right for you, and when.
- Do you really want to work for yourself, or just work someplace else? Sometimes “My boss is a tool” can disguise itself as “I should just do my own thing.” Think long and hard about whether you can address your ambition or frustrations (or both) with a simple job change that allows you to find a better fit, or if you really want to start your own business. They are very different paths.
Take these into account and you’ll be in a better position to recognize the difference between a genuine entrepreneurial spirit, and just a bad day at the office.
Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit?