September 27, 2017
You don’t need a business degree to be a business owner
By: Robert Herjavec
I have a deep admiration for entrepreneurs and small business owners because they are taking a risk. For a lot of people that is difficult to do – you’re putting yourself out there in the world of commerce to sink or swim.
It’s a path I know all too well.
Maybe because I’ve walked that path I don’t have time for excuses or labels that some entrepreneurs give themselves that seemingly “lets them off the hook” if their idea or business fails. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can’t do anything half way – or else it’s called a hobby. Once you are in it, you are a business owner – you’re the boss. There is no other label. And you better be ready to roll up your sleeves!
Working on the second season of the Small Business Revolution with Deluxe Corporation, I met six amazing small business owners from Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania. Amanda Brinkman (the Chief Brand Officer of Deluxe) and I worked through their business needs and struggles, forcing each owner to think differently about their bottom line and their budgets.
Everyone was receptive to the advice and homework we gave them, but I was struck by one conversation where the business owners kept referring to themselves as something else.
Megan Hems and her husband Roland, have owned Hems Truck and Auto in Bristol for 10 years. As we were talking and debriefing on their business, Megan had the curious habit of referring to herself as a “psychology major,” and it was almost as though that was why she shouldn’t be expected to excel in her small business.
She couldn’t be more wrong.
I have a degree in classical English literature. If I fail in my business, I don’t think to myself “well, how could I have known what to do, I have an English degree.”
Once you own your own business, you are a business owner – full stop. You are also likely the sales person, accountant, marketing person, delivery person – you are who you need to be. And most days you’re all of the above!
Ten years in a small business, Megan is a small business owner. She runs an auto shop. And a great one at that!
If tomorrow, Megan quit the shop and began working in retail, she would be a salesperson, not a psych major acting as a sales person. I’ve said it often, being a small business owner is the only time where you will trade a 40 hour a week job for an 80 hour a week job. Once you are in it, you are in it.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners come from all walks of life. Some are high school drop outs and others have master’s degrees. Some build on their education and stay in a certain field while others, like Megan, fall into being a small business owner because that is what supports her family.
For the Hems family, I left them with three pieces of advice:
- Embrace who you are. They aren’t a mechanic and a psych major running a business. They are small business owners. Own it.
- Understand your balance sheet. They have sales and inventory but they aren’t tracking where their money is going. They have to dig into the financials and know their numbers.
- Celebrate their success. They have been in business 10 years. Not many businesses make it that far. They should be proud and celebrate their success.
Our work with Hems Truck and Auto has given Megan and Roland new life in their business. But their success is still up to them. Moving forward, they will have the mindset of small business owners.
No other labels need apply.