Signs Running A Business Isn’t For You (And It’s Okay)
I learned a valuable career lesson this year: it’s okay to admit that you don’t want certain things. I used to feel ashamed of the fact that I really didn’t feel a pull towards certain goals that, clearly, have some benefits. People would ask, “Do you think you’ll ever write a book?” and I’d sheepishly say, “Um…maybe.” But my gut reaction was no I don’t want to write a book. It was so clear, however, from the looks on the faces of those who would ask that writing a book should be something I wanted. So I felt like there was something wrong with me for not wanting to do that. The same goes for owning a business: I don’t want to do that. And that’s okay. Part of learning what we want to do is also identifying what we don’t want. And even though there is a lot of pride to be had in running a business, it isn’t for everyone. If it isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean you are lacking in some way. So if you’re feeling pressured to start a business by, say, your family or colleagues, please first consider signs that owning a business isn’t for you.
You need sacred free time
As a business owner, you will have employees, sure, but if any of them cannot show up, you may just have to be your own employee for the day. So no free time is really ever guaranteed. You can be at a concert with friends when you get notice that your receptionist or cashier got sick and had to go to Urgent Care, and now you just have to drive to your business to be the receptionist. Unless you can find someone to cover. But even then, that task eats into your free time.
Including free mental time
From what I understand of business owners, your business is never not on your mind. It is like a baby that never grows up—it constantly needs to be tended to and supervised. It is so fragile. One little mistake can lead to large and disproportionate consequences. As an employee, you get to go home and forget about work. You never get to do that as a business owner.
You hate delegating
The idea of breaking up a large project into small, clear tasks makes you feel dizzy and stressed out. You prefer to just tackle a big project yourself, at your own pace. But as a business owner, you have to be able to identify the many small tasks within a large project, and find the best people (who are not you) to do each one. Then you have to create timelines for each task.
If you delegate, you micromanage
If and when you delegate, you micromanage. You don’t even enjoy the relief of having others handle the various tasks involved in a project, because you just circle around them, watching their every move, almost as if you are still doing the work yourself.
You crave stability
Any amount of uncertainty makes you feel very uneasy. You cannot sleep if there is even the tiniest degree of uncertainty in your life. But owning a business is about becoming comfortable with uncertainty.
You like structure
You also love structure. You love knowing that one plus two will equal three and that if you put in this work you’ll gain that result. However, that’s rarely how running a business goes. You are the one trying to create the structure for your employees, but being the creator of the structure is, truly, a chaotic experience.
You need people to like you
If someone doesn’t like you, it deeply disturbs you. You’re a people pleaser. Knowing someone is unhappy with you keeps you up at night. Well, if you have employees, you’ll always have several individuals who are unhappy with you. It’s very rare that everyone is happy with the ruler.
You like to be nurturing
You like to help people, comfort people, and nurture people. You prefer that to pushing people beyond their comfort zone or bossing people around. People tend to fall in one of these categories or the other, and you can probably guess which type of person isn’t ideal for running a business. In fact, this is one of the toughest parts of transitioning from an employee to an employer—the people you once comforted become the ones you have to discipline.
You’re too trusting
You like to give people the benefit of the doubt. You like to give people the chance to do the right thing. You are trusting. And while a militant employer may not get the best results, the completely naïve doormat of an employer doesn’t get great results, either. Employees will try to steal from you, lie to you, punch in inaccurate hours, and more. If you are someone who would prefer not to dabble in monitoring the honesty (or dishonesty) of others, business ownership is not for you.
You struggle to say “No”
Your least favorite thing in the world is to say no to someone who is asking something of you. If that’s you, you’ll quickly be trampled on by all of the employees asking for more time off and higher pay. Let’s not even start with the friends and family members who will ask for jobs and favors.
You are risk-averse
You must have a high risk tolerance if you’re going to run a business. You should, of course, be taking calculated risks that you make from a place of knowledge (hello business school), but there will always be some risk involved. If risk makes your skin crawl, then owning a business is not for you.
You lose your patience quickly
You wouldn’t call yourself a patient person. If people around you are less educated than you are, or are prone to making mistakes, you are quick to anger. The idea of teaching someone something who is struggling to grasp a concept makes your blood boil. But that’s what you’d have to do daily with employees.
You don’t like people
If you just don’t really like people, well, you may want to work on that but for now, owning a business likely isn’t for you. If you don’t like people, then you likely behave in a way that makes others not like you, and you need to be likeable to run a successful business. You need to have good interactions with customers and vendors and employees and partners. You need people to want to take meetings with you and do business with you—not dread it.
Problem solving makes you panic
Running a business means putting out figurative (and sometimes literal) fires, several times a day. New, unprecedented problems will arise, and you’ll have to create a strategy on the spot for how to handle those. If you don’t like handling surprise challenges, owning a business isn’t for you.
You like finances to be simple
Hey, it’s alright to want simple finances. And the finances of business owners are not simple. They handle pay roll. They have their business credit card, the balance of which can be tremendously high, and for which they sometimes need to take a lien on their home to pay off the credit card so they can purchase the equipment for their business that will eventually make them more money—but not for a while. See. Money can get messy when you own a business.