The Reality of Running a Small Business: Prepare Yourself (And Your Loved Ones)


Running a small business is challenging for the owner as well as their family. By understanding the realities of running a business ahead of your launch, you and your family will be better prepared for life as entrepreneurs.

It’s easy to romanticize about being your own boss and striking out on your own.

It’s also easy to forget what we all know to be true –running a small business is a difficult and life-changing challenge. The rewards are well worth the effort if you and your family are prepared for life as an entrepreneur. The best way to prepare for those changes is to understand the realities of running a small business before you dive in.

Set realistic expectations for yourself and your loved ones as you make the transition to business ownership.

Entrepreneurship is a team sport. Before you launch and get to work, prepare for the changes that owning a business brings so you and your family can make the transition as easy as possible. Here are four places to start as you think through the realities of running a small business.

Income May be Unpredictable at First

A steady paycheck is comforting. The most immediate impact of owning a business is the reality that there’s no longer a check hitting your account every two weeks. Income shifts from expected to unpredictable when you start out on your own.

Creating realistic expectations around income begins before you launch your business. You can lessen the impact of unpredictable income by anticipating how much cash you need to sustain your personal needs and the needs of your business as a lifeline while your business gets off the ground.

You May Need to Forego Some Luxuries

Sacrificing some personal luxuries usually goes hand-in-hand with starting a business. This could mean giving up your daily latte purchase for home-brewed coffee, cooking dinner at home rather than going out, and staying home rather than taking this year’s summer vacation.

It’s important to keep as much cash in your hands as you can when starting out, which means giving up on some of the things you don’t necessarily need. Sacrificing luxuries now will ultimately pay off down the road as your business grows and becomes profitable.

Working for Yourself Requires Discipline

Being your own boss has lots of advantages if you’re willing and able to hold yourself accountable to get the work done. Personal accountability and self-discipline are central to an owner’s success.

If you’re starting your business in your home, you’ll need to work with your family to set firm work hours and boundaries, so work time and family time don’t start to blur together. Dedicate a quiet room or set space in your home as your office or workspace. This will make it easier for you to stay on task and help you and your family better recognize boundaries.

Expect to Work Really Hard

Many entrepreneurs find themselves working harder and for longer hours than they did when working for an employer. And, since there’s no crystal ball in life, there’s no way of knowing for how long the level of hard work will continue until you start to see the payoff.

Working hard day-in and day-out for your business takes commitment. Yet, while you can’t expect to run a successful business without hard work, it’s equally important that owners find ways to maintain a work/life balance. Personal time away from the business is necessary for your health as well as the health of your family and your company.

Preparing now for the realities of owning a small business will better position you for success down the road.

There’s no way to truly know how running a small business will change your life and that of your family’s until you start. One of the best ways to get prepared for these realities is to speak to other business owners who have faced some of the same challenges.

Even better than speaking with one business owner is to consult with a group of business experts. Consider creating a business development board comprised of legal, accounting, banking, and industry professionals who will agree to provide pro bono guidance as you begin. Having a team to guide you can help you prepare yourself—and your family—for what to expect from running your own business.

Assembling a team of supporters around you, and your family, as you prepare to launch your business is something that a SCORE mentor is perfectly positioned to do. A SCORE mentor will serve as a part of your support team and connect you to other professionals who are experts in their field and in the art of launching a successful business. Your mentor can help you prepare for the realities of running a small business and guide you along the way. Contact a SCORE mentor today.

Yusef Muhammad
Southwest Regional Vice President, SCORE

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 11 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 10,000 volunteer business mentors in over 250 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.