12/04/2015 10:46 EST | Updated 12/04/2016 05:12 EST

Lessons For Prospective Entrepreneurs From Small Business Owners

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Young small business owner sitting at desk and working at home.

Have a big idea? Thinking about starting your own company?

You're likely going to need some help. Over the years I've met hundreds of hard-working Canadian entrepreneurs, and while they all had different business plans and worked in various industries, one thing they all had in common was their passion.

Small business owners are incredibly passionate, often tenacious people. Starting with just an idea, they work long hours and make many personal sacrifices in order to spur their business towards success. Still, despite the stressful days and long list of obstacles, the vast majority of Canadian entrepreneurs do not regret the day they decided to become their own boss.

So, what's their secret? Below, I've compiled four valuable lessons I've learned from successful small business owners:

Lean on family and friends

Just because you're starting your own company doesn't mean you can do it alone. While having faith in one's self is a requisite trait of all small business owners, most have come to rely on the support of loved ones to overcome the everyday stresses of entrepreneurship. In fact, according to a recent survey commissioned by American Express, 57 per cent of SBOs said they lean on their spouse for comfort and stress relief, and just under half (44 per cent) rely on friends.

Stay optimistic and forward-looking

Before starting your own business, it's important to know that entrepreneurship will come at some personal cost. Today, half of all SBOs say their family life is negatively impacted by owning a business, with 49 per cent believing it impedes their ability to keep an active lifestyle and 47 per cent worrying that business ownership stands in the way of other opportunities like travel, education, etc.

Still, nine in 10 entrepreneurs say they love being a business owner, and an overwhelming 94 per cent of SBOs believe the rewards of running their own business outweigh the risks. In addition, nearly three quarters (71 per cent) of SBOs remain optimistic about their businesses' future.

Get access to the cash flow you need

Access to credit and alternative forms of financing is the primary concern for most SBOs, but especially for those who are in the early stages of building a business and aren't able to fund their ventures through bank loans. According to the survey, almost half (45 per cent) of new business owners see cash flow unpredictability as a source of fear and anxiety, and 41 per cent worry about falling short on revenue. In addition, 56 per cent of SBOs wish there were easier ways to secure financing and credit for their business, with 40 per cent relying on personal savings, 36 per cent relying on bank loans and 21 per cent relying on salaries from other jobs.

But while cash flow is a serious concern among business owners, it shouldn't be a debilitating stress. To make your life easier, take advantage of easily available credit with competitive interest rates and be sure to monitor payables and receivables cycles to conserve cash.

Don't wait to follow your dreams

More than half (60 per cent) of SBOs said they wish they knew more about running a business when they first started their company, but while it's important for prospective entrepreneurs to know exactly what they're getting into, you don't want to sit on an idea too long.

After all, when asked if they would do anything differently to manage their life as a business owner, more than one third (34 per cent) of Canadian SBOs said they would start their business earlier.

So if you have an idea and are ready to tackle life as an entrepreneur, the time to get started is now. Just remember that you can't do it alone. To realize your dreams of running a successful small business, you'll need optimism, access to cash flow and the support of friends and family.

And, of course, you'll need plenty of passion. Good luck.


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