7 Unconventional Ways to Know You Shouldn't Run Your Own Business

Last Updated Mar 7, 2011 10:58 AM EST

You've read the books, heard the cautionary tales, worked through some standard checklists, and talked to friends. You've done your homework and feel owning your own business is right for you.

Great -- but why not be sure? If you recognize yourself in any of the following, reconsider before taking the entrepreneurial plunge:

  • You still play fantasy sports at work. When revenues and profits are a distant dream, managing a fantasy team is the last thing you'll have time for. Starting a business is overwhelming. Exit your fantasy leagues now. Spend that time thinking about how you'll make money.
  • You spent a lot of time personalizing your office. I know; you dreamed of a bigger office, you're proud of your bigger office, you deserved that bigger office, and by gosh you want it to reflect your personality. Say you plan to open a retail store; since customers will never see your office the only thing it should reflect is "cheap." Money should never be spent on anything that won't touch the customer. You will be too busy chasing customers to worry about whether your office befits your stature or aligns with your personality.
  • You don't empty your own trash, even when you're going that way. "Someone" takes care of that, you say? Your job is to focus on more important tasks? Not anymore. Entrepreneurs wear every hat. Besides, efficiency is everything: No movement should be wasted, no time savings are too small, and no expenses too minor to eliminate. If doing whatever needs to be done isn't something that comes naturally, stay where you are.
  • You feel you could be a lot more productive... if you only had that new (insert latest technology here). Think about the last computer, smart phone, software, etc. you purchased. Did it really make you more efficient? Can you quantify the gains? Or was it just fun to have? In your own business you'll be lucky to get the "must have" stuff. Even if you have the funds, "nice to have" is money wasted.
  • You're still pissed your department got shorted during the last budget cycle. Unless a VC comes calling or your dad funds your start-up, you won't really have a budget. Money spent doesn't come from an invisible corporate pot. It comes from your pocket. If you hate struggling with limited resources, hate seeing your great initiatives unjustly compromised by budgetary concerns, and can't wait until you're in charge... when you find out how limited resources are in a start-up, you'll hate running your own business.
  • You can discuss work-life balance issues with intelligence and passion. I feel the concept of work-life balance is an artificial construct, but let's pretend one does exist. If you think a lot about the conflict between work and life, and you feel work is winning the battle, just wait until you start a business. Work will eat life for breakfast.
  • You've said, even once, "I've paid my dues." When you run your own business you pay your dues every day. (The same should be true if you work for someone else: The only real measure of your value is the tangible contribution you make, each and every day.) Today, tomorrow, the next day: You earn the right to stay in business. No one cares about your experience or years of hard work. Dues are paid when you get paid by customers.
Sound harsh? Maybe a little, but I feel sure most of you who run your own businesses agree. If not, let me know!

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Photo courtesy flickr user Greg Livaudais, CC 2.0
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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.