Which Business Is Best For You? (written October, 2013)

You’ve always felt that you belonged in a business of your own. You want to be you own boss, earn more money and plan your own time. The question is — which business is best for you?

Unfortunately, some hard working and well meaning individuals fail because they choose something that doesn’t match their skills or temperament. A common mistake is to pick something especially challenging or difficult. Perhaps people are lured to hard things because the payoff is apt to be better, and you can’t blame them for that. Naturally, you’ll want your business to be profitable, but there should be other reasons for choosing what you do.

Also people enjoy “stretching” their abilities to meet challenges. What they may not realize is that simply being in business and staying in business is a challenge in itself. They’d be better off “stretching” in their hobbies or spare time activities. Take up rafting or mountain climbing for the challenge, but find a business with tasks that are relatively easy to perform.

Another common mistake is that people aren’t ready for working on their own. They still need the security of a paycheck, the discipline of regular working hours and the companionship of other workers. Be honest with yourself. If you still need a regular “job,” then think about having an independent business as a part-time endeavor. Choose this part-time enterprise with as much care as if you were quitting your job. Then, just hang in there and keep collecting your regular paycheck until your business earns enough money and you feel totally comfortable about striking out independently.

Often the type of business that works for people relates to what they’ve done before. As an employee, you might have gained experience working with your hands or dealing with people. Perhaps you worked with numbers or did something creative. Start looking at your past experience as an “apprenticeship period.” List the skills you’ve developed.

If you’re like many people, your employment background doesn’t begin to reflect what you can do. (This is probably one of the reasons you want to be an independent businessperson!) Also look at experience you’ve gained in community organizations or clubs. Maybe you operated a booth at a fund raising fair or did telephone work soliciting memberships or donations. Don’t forget things you may have learned in your everyday life, too. If you’ve cooked for groups of people in your home or kept a family organized, you have cooking or organizational skills.

Look at the list of things you’ve done and ask yourself, which of these do I do well? You don’t have to perform a task better than everybody else, but you should be able to do it competently and efficiently. If it takes you twice as long as your competitor to finish something, you’ll be in trouble. If you can do a good job a little faster than the next person, you’re ahead of the game.

Now look at what you like to do. What activities and tasks arouse your interest? Some people are fortunate enough to find trades or professions in which they can work all day and on into the night and never think about what time it is. This can be true of many crafts-persons. Frankly, not everybody is this lucky. Many entrepreneurs learn to like what they do for other reasons. Maybe they like helping their customers, and will work hard because they know someone is counting on them. Many, too, work hard for the sheer fun of getting ahead of their competitors. Or maybe it’s because they keep track of the money they’re making and the money they want to earn.

The right business for you will use some of your past experience, in or out of the workplace. The connection between your life so far and the future you plan might be a loose one, but it’s linked by a skill or know-how, which you’ve demonstrated in some way. Don’t reach for the impossible: pick something relatively easy. You should feel certain in your mind that you can perform the necessary tasks easily and well. Then be sure that you like or can learn to like doing what needs to be done. Don’t even consider something you don’t like doing unless you have a good reason for doing it.

As you match your skills and preferences with the many opportunities available, you won’t neglect the income potential of each. But the biggest factor in your eventual success is you — who you are, what you bring to your business, and whether that business is right for you.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.