Your character and lifestyle both have a tremendous bearing on your small business success.  A thorough personal inventory of both your character traits and lifestyle is essential if you are considering life as a small business owner. In fact, make the inventory your first small business strategic decision. Don’t be the last to ask, “Do I really have what it takes to run a small business?

One study names the BIG 5 Personal Character Traits – agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, and stability. Interestingly enough, efficiency, dependability, abstract thinking, and self-confidence are character traits that did not score as high as consideration, cooperation, achievement striving, leadership orientation, leadership orientation, need for recognition, and sociability. Such characteristics correlate well with success among entrepreneurs (and incidentally, with the qualities that lenders look for in small business loan candidates).

You can’t rely on what your friends and family say. You need to be deep and personal in your self-evaluation – and seek professional testing advice if needed. At a minimum, consider your tendencies to be a self-starter, diligent, persistent, and creative.  But remember, it’s just not enough to lay claim to these positives. Test for them or look for an example of what you once achieved as a self-starter.  Consider how your diligence and persistence paid off. Show something that demonstrates your creativity.  Seek to draw a correlation between your resume of life/work experience and these characteristics that contribute to success.

Next, examine your lifestyle. It’s important to separate issues of hobby and personal spending. If you are thinking about starting a business, you must want to do the work, want to look forward to it, and want to go into it every day. You need to have all the passion you would put into a serious hobby. (And I don’t mean casual reading or gardening; I mean the hobby that you will give up time and passion for, like serious golf or freshwater fishing.) It calls for the same purposeful focus, passion, and sacrifice.

Finally, be honest about your character as it relates to spending. You cannot succeed in business by constantly drawing against its revenues. Successful business owners set life standards that respect their business. You can have a reasonably attractive lifestyle if you plan for what you can withdraw as compensation and still leave enough capital to continue the business. Business will take care of you – if you are taking care of your business.


By Steven Schlagel