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Why the Big Deal About Small Business?

Understanding the Entrepreneurial Mindset


It may have something to do with the fact that small businesses—which include sole proprietorships, single and multigenerational family businesses, and professional practices— account for more than 99 percent of all employers in the United States. Or maybe it’s because more than half of all private-sector workers are employed by these firms. Then again, it could be because small businesses are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all net-new jobs (openings versus closings) for most of the past two decades. (These statistics are from the Small Business Administration’s Office ofAdvocacy.)

As awesome as these stats may be, it’s still the God, I wish I’d thought of that! moment of entrepreneurial wistfulness that impresses and inspires us the most.

Consider the cuisine on wheels concept: seriously delicious rolling nosheries, jockeying for space on busy city streets as they compete for our appetites and a bite out of our wallets and purses along the way. Or the farmers’ markets that are as much at home in the country as they are on tiny inner-city lots. Or the brilliantly original graphic design work, fearlessly posted by freelancing artists on such sites as crowdSpring in the hope that at least one of their concepts will put them in the running for a project that a restaurant chain, medical group practice or family farm has put out for bid. Perhaps it’s a machinist who has come up with an ingenious idea for a tool that promises to earn a place in every do-it-yourselfer’s toolbox.

Entrepreneurs need only a moment to see things as they are before they’re off, spending more time than they’d ever admit, thinking about and planning for what they could become. If only. We sketch out our concepts on scraps of paper pulled from nightstand drawers at three in the morning, fine-tune them on sagging Ping-Pong tables in dimly lit basements, finance them with rainy-day saving accounts and happily obsess about them forever.

Whether you’re launching a new venture, acquiring an existing practice, taking over the reins of the family store or refining something else you may have already started, being your own boss is a rush. That is, until the wheels fall off your entrepreneurial wagon and the full weight of the responsibilities you’ve shouldered becomes jarringly obvious. 

Have You Thought It Through? According to the SBA, approximately 30 percent of all new businesses fail within the first two years; 50 percent disappear by year five. And while there are many reasons for those statistics—including just plain good or bad luck—it often boils down to the wrong answers to these four foundational questions:


Do You Have What It Takes?

Anyone can decide to go into business for himself. If the plan is to have it grow into something that’s more than a weekend hobby, however, consider this list of entrepreneurial traits that distinguish posers, as my students would characterize them, from those who play for keeps, as I would say:



Are you clear about what you want, how you plan to get it and what you’ll do with it once it’s yours? Good ideas can turn into great businesses when specifics outweigh generalities.



Are you doing it for the money? The fame? A résumé bullet? It’s best if it’s because you enjoy the work and you’re up for the challenge. Otherwise it will get old fast and your employees will stop caring around the same time you do.



Whether your plan is to make a killing on an opportunity that’s short-lived or to build a business that’ll endure for years to come, it’s important that the people you bring aboard know your intentions and the certainty of your engagement. After all, you’re asking them to bet their livelihoods on you.

Adapted with permission from the author’s book Business Happens.  To purchase this helpful resource at a discounted rate, simply click here

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