Do you have what it takes to be a business owner? 7 key questions

Whether you've always had an entrepreneurial spirit or believe that self-employment offers the best job security, there's never been a better time to start a business.

by Sandra Beckwith
updated May 11, 2023 ·  4min read

Successful business owners share more than a great idea or an inspired team. They possess traits that make it possible for them to flourish.

Have you wondered if you have what it takes to be a business owner? Here are seven questions you should ask yourself.

biz owner having coffee

1. Are you passionate about what you'll be doing?

Hallmark movies make it look like owning a cupcake shop is all fun and romance, but in the real world, the owner of that flourishing bakery is stressed because an oven just broke, an employee didn't show up, and nobody told her they were running low on powdered sugar. If you don't enjoy what you do, challenges like these are a lot harder to deal with.

"At the end of the day, all the stress and long hours don't matter because you are truly passionate about what you're helping to build and you love every second of it," says Brandon Monaghan, co-founder of premium linens company Miracle Brand.

2. Are you persistent?

Most startups don't enjoy immediate success. In fact, many stumble a few times. Successful owners persist through early mistakes and other challenges.

"Are you able to keep going even if you don't seem to be making progress?" asks Becca Marvin, owner of crafting site Sunflower Summer Co. "Starting and running a business can be slow going and most of the time it isn't a get rich quick scheme," she adds.

3. Are you a risk-taker?

For some, the simple act of starting a business puts them at risk.

"Many prominent owners of small businesses quit decent jobs, which is only one indicator of their ability to take risks. Others spend their own cash to start it," says Jason Wong, founder of eyelash retailer DoeLashes.

You can minimize the inherent risk in business ownership by carefully researching and vetting your concept and market, but there's always an element of risk with self-employment.

4. Are you self-motivated?

When you're the boss, you get to decide where and when you work and what you'll be doing. Self-employment is a natural fit for people who work well without close supervision.

"No one will wake you up or hold you accountable so you have to be able to do that for yourself," says Shana Greenbaum, owner of Healthy Fresh Meals. This also means that it might not be the best fit for people who struggle to create structure and a routine on their own.

5. How flexible are you?

Most business owners will tell you to expect change. You might need to move to a larger work space, find a new supplier, or replace staff. Sometimes, the entire business model changes.

The variables differ from one business to another, but the one constant is that no business is static. To thrive in good times and bad, expect to continually adjust and adapt.

"Change is constant and it presents itself in two ways—you're either forced to change or you're ahead of the need to change. Looking ahead and questioning your direction should be done daily, similar to adjusting a flight plan around bad weather. You don't wait until you hit the storm to make the change," says Jonathan Bass, founder of Whom Home, a home decor manufacturer.

6. Do people say you're a good communicator?

Business owners must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with funders, employees, vendors, and customers, among others. It's essential that staff in particular understand where you're going, how you'll get there, and what you expect from them.

"Communication is key in being able to appropriately relay your vision step-by-step to your team without overwhelming them with the big picture," says Jason Akatiff, co-founder of lighting products e-commerce site Boundery.

7. Are you a confident person?

If you don't believe in your vision and your ability to execute it, who will? Even if you have to "fake it 'til you make it," confidence is key to overcoming naysayers and obstacles. "If you don't believe in yourself and your abilities, you'll have a tough time pushing through when things don't go the way you planned," says Tali Raphaely, president of Armour Title Company, a real estate title firm.

Other traits to consider include a lifelong willingness to learn, the ability to make decisions, and grit. You don't need all of these to succeed, but if you naturally have a few to start and are willing to cultivate a few more as you progress, you'll be off to a good start.

If you decide you have what it takes to start a business, be sure to consult with a professional to learn about funding, uncover any legal or accounting issues, and to select the best way to form your business.

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Sandra Beckwith

About the Author

Sandra Beckwith

Sandra Beckwith has been writing for traditional and online publications since she sold her first magazine article while… Read more

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