Hey kids, students of business, potential leaders:  want to be a successful business owner? Want to be the boss? My company serves over 600 clients and I talk to hundreds of other business owners every year. People who are a lot smarter than me. Running a small business isn’t romantic or exciting or even fun for most guys I know. There’s no romance, no fame, no glory. Most of us are not Richard Bransons, Donald Trumps or Bill Gates. We’re more like Howard Cunningham. That’s the reality of running a small business. And there’s more.

Successful business owners I know almost always have a partner. Do you? It’s rare that I see one guy successfully grow a company, unless he’s a 19 year old narcissist who can create an entire website in his dorm room capable of crashing Harvard’s servers in just one night. Successful
businesses have a team of people. More often than not it’s family members. Sure, they’re yelling and throwing things at each other. But they divide and conquer. And because they’re from the same family they usually have a higher level of trust for one another than otherwise.

One guy usually does service and the other guy does sales. That’s the typical breakdown. The sales guy is the brother who always got the girls in high school and drank a lot of beer in college. The service guy is the one who got the better grades and drank a lot of beer in a better college. It’s rare that I see one guy doing it all.

You had better also be ready to become a hardened cynic. Your faith in people will be tested. Your good spirits will be rained on. You will be challenged to keep that glass-is-half-full outlook. Because after running a small business for a few years, you’re going to find yourself turning into a skeptic. People will lie to you. Customers who say they will pay your bills … won’t. Suppliers who promise your shipment will arrive on time … aren’t being truthful. Employees whom you expect to show up to work … don’t.

You don’t learn this in school. You don’t read about it in Inc. Magazine. And don’t worry – the guys who are running successful small businesses aren’t complete pessimists. They’re realists. They’re almost always good judges of human nature.

And make sure you have a long term plan. It doesn’t have to be an exciting plan either. You don’t have to take your company public or merge it with an international conglomerate. Understand that the big multi-gazillion dollar payback only happens in the movies. Most business owners
don’t see massive pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. But they do see a more than comfortable retirement if they manage things correctly and luck stays on their side. They look forward over the next ten years and work toward building cash, increasing asset values and building equity.

Boring stuff, I know. But that’s what it’s like to run a business. And that’s how smart business owners survive and succeed.