5 Things a Small Business Owner Will Never Tell You

What are you struggling with as a business owner?Starting and running your own business is hard…..really hard.  Some days in fact you may question why you ever made the entrepreneurial leap of faith.  Having your own business is alot like riding a roller coaster, lots of highs and lows, and sometimes you may get queasy.

Anyone that has their own business has, at times, experienced the freedom and joy that only being your own boss can bring.  But has also experienced the stomach turning, stress inducing moments where you wish you were back in a safe warm cubicle somewhere, trying to look busy until 5PM comes around.

When things are stressful in your business, and they often are, having friends and family ask you “how's it going?”, can be one of the most annoying things on earth.  And you will almost always give the same response…..”it's good”

Below are five things you will almost never tell your non-business owning friends, family and former co-workers.

1. It's Alot Harder Than I Thought

Before you start your own business you have everything figured out, a plan for everything.  But just like this old boxing quote says “everyone has a plan until they punched in the face”.  About six months into your business you probably feel like you've gone ten rounds with George Foreman.

What happened?

Nothing happened, it's called owning your own business.

The problem is that before you started your business, everything was crystal clear, you could walk into any business and instantly spot a dozen things you could do better than the current owner.  You probably felt pretty smart, how you had this amazing power to spot flaws and inefficiencies in any business.

Fast forward  six months into your own business, guess what?  People are walking into your business everyday thinking of all the ways they could make your business better if they were the owner.

Just like having kids, the problems and solutions are so clear before you start a business (or have children).  What almost all non-business owners (and non-parents) don't realize is that the ideas are only 1% of the equation……….implementation is the other 99%.  You quickly realize that as a business owner you are never short on ideas, the catch is always in putting those ideas into action.

The thing is, it's hard to relate that to people who don't own their own business, they still think having the idea is the most important thing.

2. I Constantly Doubt Myself

You may give off an aura of super confidence, but inside you are always having that conversation with yourself  “do I really know what i'm doing?”, “am I good enough to do this?”.

You probably found out pretty quickly how many hats you must wear and how much you need to know as a business owner.  Most people think they know before they start their business, but they don't truly understand until they are knee deep in it.

Doubting yourself is normal, in fact healthy.  It'll keep you on your toes and ensure that you never get too complacent about yourself or your business.

The problem is that you don't want to let your friends or family know that you have these daily debates inside your head.  While us business owners know this is normal, anyone else may think you are either going crazy or the stress of owning a business is too much for you.  Both may or may not be true.

3. It's Not Going as Well as Planned

Ask any small business owner “how's business?” and you'll usually get the same answer, “it's good!”.

From my experience I usually interpret this answer as somewhere between, things are pretty good to I don't know if i'll be open next month.

It's much easier to tell your friends and former co-workers that “things are going well” than the fact that you just barely made enough money last month to pay the rent and payroll.

You were so confidant and enthusiastic when you were first starting out, how would it look if you started telling people that your business is not turning out as planned?  That almost everything you thought would happen, didn't.  It's nothing to be embarrassed about.  Look at just about any successful business person and you will see repeated stories of failures, course changes and close calls.  It comes with owning your own business.

The only person you might really confide in is another business owner.  You probably feel like they are the only ones that really know what you are going through.  That's why war veterans spend countless hours talking about the battlefield with their military buddies but will go a lifetime and never mention any details of what they saw to friends and even family. They just can't relate to what you have gone through.

People that work for others are used to consistency and predictability.  Put in 40 hours of work and get a paycheck.  Rinse and repeat for 40-50 years and you can relax and enjoy even more predictability with a steady retirement check.  Unfortunately, owning your own business does not afford those luxuries, we usually don't know what will happen next week, let alone next year or the year after.

4. Some Days I Wish I Worked for Someone Else

Some days I long to be a “Yes Man”, stuck in middle management in a job that i'm apathetic about.  At least it's a steady paycheck!

One thing that business owners learn early on, and what separates working for yourself rather then for someone else, is that you are ultimatly responsible…..for everything.  Having that weight on you all the time can really wear you down.

When I was promoted to Lieutenant in the Fire Department, a fellow officer gave me this advice, “you're never in charge, but you're always responsible”.  I think this applies equally to owning your own business.  Things may happen that are out of your control (or at least you feel like they are), but it doesn't really matter, the buck will always stop with you.

Don't you long for the days when you screwed up at work, said you were sorry, and let those higher up sort everything out?  Sometimes it sucks not having anyone higher up on the food chain to take care of your problems.

Of course you would never tell this to anyone.  Starting your own business was supposed to be your one way ticket out of “Mediocreville”, a place where you were free from bosses, creative constraints and anything else that bugged you.

You would never admit to your former co-workers that sometimes you daydream about answering to someone else, having someone else tell you what to do and having little responsibility.

Guess what?  Your former co-workers are daydreaming that they had the guts to go out into the unknown and start their own business.  The only difference is that you actually did it.  Whether your business succeeds or fails, you should be proud of that as most people don't have the stomach to ride the perpetual roller coaster that is running your own business.

5. I'm overwhelmed

No matter how much you prepare, there is too much to learn to ever be fully prepared before starting your own business.

When things go wrong, they usually go wrong in bunches.  You may be able to handle the customer who complains that you're too expensive, or the key employee who can't work weekends anymore, or even the misprint (it was your fault) on the five thousand brochures you just printed, but all at the same time?  Ahhh!

Back in your corporate days you were able to call (or blame) the marketing department if there was a problem with the brochures or pass that rude customer off to the customer service department.  If the toilet backed up, call housekeeping.  What?  No housekeeping department?  Oh, wait, that's me.

You learn pretty quickly that the things you were able to pass off to others in the corporate world now become you and you alone.  Running your own business is overwhelming, there is a constant demand on your time and energy (both mental and physical).  The important thing is to learn as fast as you make mistakes, that's the only way to stay ahead and not drown in an ever rising sea of demands.

Owning Your Own Business Is Rewarding and Sometimes Lonely

If any of the above thoughts have run through your head, don't worry, almost all small business owners have thoughts like these. It's normal.  The more time you spend with other business owners the more you will see you are not alone.

Sometimes you may want to get off the roller coaster you call your business, but you know that if don't stay on, you won't find out what the thrills are just around the bend.

If you are like most small business owners, you probably spend most of your days either with customers or with your employees.  It can feel lonely not having anyone that can relate to the excitement, stress and problems you face everyday.

One of the best things you can do as a business owner is to find a group of like minded business owners, sometimes they are referred to as Mastermind Groups.  It's a great way to meet other business owners, exchange ideas, or just trade some old fashioned “War Stories” with them.

Photo Credit: Chilombiano


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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
7 replies
  1. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    You’re absolutely right Diana, it’s having that ultimate responsibility that weighs so heavily on a business owner. You really have to learn to live with ambiguity and not let minor set backs wear you down. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Dima
    Dima says:

    Hmm, these things are very interesting! I have no experience in this field, but I am very glad hearing them. Good job!

  3. Chuck
    Chuck says:

    Its all true. This is a capitalistic society and big business has the capital. Small business is a trap that’s easy to enter but impossible to get out of. Nobody wants to hire a know it all maverick.

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