Stainless Business

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” said English poet and essayist Alexander Pope ­several centuries ago. He wasn’t describing people ­expanding or starting a business, but he may as well have been. Everyone who goes into business for themselves hopes to meet or surpass a set of personal goals. A search for freedom and independence is the driving force behind many businesspeople. Wasn’t it Johnny Paycheck who wrote the song “Take This Job and Shove It?” For many people, owning a business is a genuinely fulfilling experience, one that lifetime employees never know. Many people find that while they can make a good income working for other people, they are missing some of life’s precious moments. With the flexibility of small business ownership, you can take time to stop and smell the roses. Respect. Successful small business owners are respected, both by themselves and their peers. You can get rich in a small business, or at least do very well financially. Most entrepreneurs don’t get wealthy, but some do. If money is your motivator, admit it. When it is your business, you can have your employees do it your way. There is a little Ghengis Khan in us all, so don’t be surprised if power is one of your goals. If it is, think about how to use this goal in a constructive way. From natural foods to solar power to many types of service businesses, a great many cause-driven small businesses have done very well by doing good. If owning a small business can help a person accomplish these goals, it’s small wonder that so many are started. Unfortunately, while the ­potential for great success exists, so do many risks. Running a small business may require that you sacrifice some short-term comforts for long-term benefits. It is hard, demanding work that requires a wide variety of skills few people are born with. But even if you possess (or more likely acquire) the skills and determination you need to successfully run a business, your business will need one more critical ingredient: Money. You need money to start your business, money to keep it running, and money to make it grow. This is not the same thing as saying you can guarantee success in your small business if you begin with a fat wallet. Now, let me confess to one major bias here. I believe that most small business owners and founders are better off ­starting small and borrowing, or otherwise raising, as little money as possible. Put another way, there is no such thing as “raising plenty of capital to ensure success.” Unless you, as the prospective business founder, learn to get the most mileage out of every dollar, you may go broke and will surely spend more than you need to. But that doesn’t mean that you should try to save money by selling cheap merchandise or providing ­marginal services. In today’s competitive economy, your customers want the best you can give them at the best price. They will remember the quality of what they get from you long after they have forgotten how much they paid.

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