More Than A Hobby: Do you have the right mindset to run a business?

Every day, thousands of individuals strike out on their own, ready to begin the adventure of working solo. Some will build their companies into thriving enterprises, while others will see their efforts crumble in a pile of frustration.

Is there a secret ingredient that guarantees solo success? That’s a question that’s often asked from the thousands of independent professionals I encounter each year in my travels.

Most people think it’s just about money. Have enough of it, and your business will flourish, they say. Others declare that it’s all in a business idea.

More Than A Hobby: Do you have the right mindset to run a business?

While it’s true that a solid financial footing and a strong business concept can help you navigate the inevitable cash flow bumps that a new venture encounters, I think there’s a more important factor for entrepreneurial success: a business mindset. Soloists who succeed are those who understand that every decision must be made from the perspective of a business owner – with all the focus, commitment, and professionalism that comes with that attitude.

A business mindset doesn’t require MBA courses or in-depth knowledge of sophisticated business models. Instead, it starts with a simple question: What can I do to position my company as a serious business and not a casual interest?

I’ve seen this shift occur in my own business development over the last two decades, as I’ve grown from being a freelancer to the president of a one-person company, and now the head of a four-person firm. It’s a subtle, but important, distinction. Consider these differences in attitude in the questions below, and see where your thinking fits in:

  • Do you float from project to project and let clients dictate your growth path, or do you choose projects carefully so that each one builds your skill set over time?
  • Is your office set up on your kitchen table, or have you established a more structured work environment (even if it is a wooden plank over two used filing cabinets)?
  • Do you keep good business records, or are they all stuffed into a shoebox that’s a mass of confusion?
  • Have you invested in proper professional tools, such as a separate phone line and voice mail, or do you live in fear of your 7-year-old answering that important client call first?
  • If someone asks what you do, are your phrases filled with apologies and limitations, or can you speak with clarity about your business focus and goals?
  • Are you actively curious about learning new things, or do you adopt an “I-don’t-have-time” attitude toward professional development?
  • Are you seriously committed to building your company, or are you just hanging out until a better job comes your way?

When you’re self-employed, the IRS wants your company to make a profit three out of five years, as proof that you’re engaged in a serious business pursuit and not a money-losing hobby. Even if your profits are very lean – as mine have certainly been some years! – what’s more important is the mindset you carry. What can you do today to make the shift from temporary to dedicated, from diffused to focused, from passive to committed?

Seasoned soloists know that success starts with a business mindset. It doesn’t cost a penny, but the payoffs are substantial.

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