What Skills Does a Small-Business Owner Need?

Q. What are the most important attributes for a small businessperson?

A. In our opinion, the most important is adaptability. In most cases, what you start out to do will not be exactly what you’re doing when you are ultimately successful. As you roll out your enterprise, you’ll discover that things you expected to work well don’t. You’ll stumble into things that you didn’t expect to work that will. You’ll see others in your industry doing things that will work for your organization, and you’ll copy them. You must be able to adapt.

Even if your initial ideas work flawlessly, the world will change. We know an entrepreneur who went into business as a residential Realtor. When the market for home sales collapsed, he morphed his business into property management since the two businesses require similar skills, but are counter-cyclical. We’ve been forced to morph our own business multiple times.

If you are going to be a small businessperson, the only thing that will be constant is change. You will have to adapt or see your enterprise swallowed up by a rising tide of change.A close second to adaptability is persistence.

Inevitably, the journey of a small businessperson will be filled with bumps in the road. You’ll lose big customers. Good employees will leave your company — some may become competitors. The government will change regulations, almost always making things more complex. To succeed, you will have to be willing to persist through difficult times. Nothing can take the place of persistence, and you can’t succeed without it.

In addition to the willingness to persist, you will need the financial resources to persist. You’ll need a cash reserve that will see you through the lean times. When considering the launch of a business, assume that everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect. If you can’t afford this, delay the launch of your enterprise. Conservatism in the planning stage is often a lifesaver down the road.

Finally, you will have to be willing to work very, very hard. Running a small business is difficult. Your days will be much longer than eight hours. If your week starts on Monday, you’ll pass 40 hours on Thursday, but you won’t slow down. You’ll be on call 24/7. Success as an entrepreneur requires hard, hard work.

Running a small business is filled with challenges, but if you are adaptable, have the willingness and the wherewithal to persist and are willing to work very hard, you greatly improve your odds of success.