11 signs you're not ready to run your own company

Ian Lurie

child with computer
So, you want to run your own company? Check this list first. If you fit more than 4 of these, you might want to wait a while. You still have some growing up to do:

  1. Your ego is bigger than you are. You just have to be the smartest person in the room. Uh-oh. That’s not good. If you’re going to succeed as a company, you’ll want to find people smarter than you. Even if you are the smartest person in the room, you shouldn’t need it.
  2. You think revenue = cash flow. You poor, poor soul. Try to give your employees a revenue report the first time you miss payroll, and see what they say.
  3. You’re in it for the money. Of course we’re all in it for the money. But you need some other motivation—maybe you really, really love producing a top-quality product, or you relish closing big deals (not the same as money, trust me).
  4. You have no price structure. It’s a lot easier to succeed in business if you get paid. Make sure you know what you’re worth and charge it.
  5. You respond to crises by throwing things and screaming. It’s OK to get a little hot under the collar. But if you meet challenges by imitating a possessed Tasmanian Devil, you’re not going to be much of a business leader.
  6. You can’t delegate. Actually, you can learn this one along the way. At some point, you will delegate or die.
  7. You hate working with customers. If you’ve found a business that doesn’t require customers of any kind (a legal business) please, let me know. I want in. But until then, understand this: Your ability to serve and please customers will get you paid, or get you and your company hacked into fist-sized chunks before you can say “bad service”.
  8. You don’t like hard decisions. Layoffs. Firings. Moving to a new office. Paying yourself versus paying the rent. You’re going to have some tough ones. Be ready.
  9. You don’t like choosing sides. Wow. I don’t envy your staff the first time they come to you with a disagreement. Of course, I see this almost daily in Corporate America, so you’ll have company.
  10. You think negotiating = screwing the other guy. You might get a few nice deals, but people will figure you out and avoid you like the plague.
  11. Your business plan is to sell the company and retire. I’m sorry, but you haven’t even started your company yet. You might want to take care of little details like a product/service, some happy customers, maybe a profit, before you start looking for Warren Buffet. Don’t cite Facebook and tell me you’re going to be like them. The road to hell is littered with copies of that business strategy.

When I started my company, I would’ve matched at least 8 out of 11 of these. It’s a miracle I survived, never mind that Portent is still around, growing, 16 years later. The only thing I had going for me? I am a fast learner. Each time I nearly piled my company into the ground at transonic speeds, I learned and moved on to the next mistake.

You’ll probably do what I did and rush in. Be a student of your own business. Learn every single day. That’s how you beat the odds, bounce back from mistakes and get stronger even when things go awry.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Good list. I think this list is slightly different for people to work on their own or starting a company of one.
    I think there are a lot of people who find the role of the CEO glamorous and powerful but they don’t really consider the amount of work and stress involved. I worked with a start-up for 4 years and there is no way you could pay me to do that job.
    My best advice is to work with a starting entrepreneur to get a sense of the position before deciding to start your own company.

  2. Absolutely right on, with many of these, especially for those micro-businesses.
    I have always believed that, even as a solopreneur, I would always adhere to old-fashioned customer service and practices. Communication which is fast and clear is also key. It shows you care. And those little things can definitely put you head and shoulders above the competition.
    “People don’t care how much you know (or in this case, what you sell or do) until they know how much you care.”

  3. Well said Bobbi! I totally agree with you. Two thumbs up. Customers are now after up to what extent you can hand to them not the other way around.
    When I was about 12 years old, we had this small family business. We usually have the lesser price on some of our items. Product prices are of utmost importance, my mother’s liturgy. It’s not bad to think of getting profit, the bad thing is that putting choking prices on goods just to gain higher profit.

  4. boy I hate lists like this, they are annoying. The only redeeming quality was your last point. When you started your business you had 8 out of 10. But you survived and succeed because you were a fast learned. In my opinion, that is the only way to do it. If you sit around and study and try to get the qualities of the erfect entreprenuer, you’ll never get started. You have to get in there, try it, learn from your mistakes and see if you can survive. No book, theory, or nor blog can train you for what lies out there in the real world.

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