Compensating for Weaknesses

At this point, you should have looked at your own strengths and weaknesses and judged for yourself whether you're ready to start a small business. You should also have compared those strengths and weaknesses with the traits you'll need to have if you're to be successful. The next step is to figure out what to do if you don't yet possess all of those traits.

If you discover that you don't have all of the traits you need to succeed, don't despair. You have options, including:

Refer back to the list of items you don't like to do (if you haven't made out your list yet, see assessing your strengths). Ask yourself if you can pay someone else to perform them. For example, if you don't like to sell, you can hire a salesman or if you don't like to do accounting work, you can hire an accountant. Down the road, as you get further along in setting up your new business, you may determine that the convenience of paying someone else to do the work is outweighed by the costs. But for now, all you have to do is identify whether someone else could do the work for you.

Now look again at the list of items you don't like to do. If your list includes items that you can't hire someone else to do, such as working with others, the solution is not so easy. Your best bet may be to partner up with someone whose skill set complements yours. For example, a person who likes working with people but not with numbers and forms may be a good match for someone who likes working with numbers but not with people.

Finding a good partner can be difficult. Most people partner up with those they know best, such as friends and family. But be aware that partnering with those you know best doesn't always work. Some marriages and friendships have been ruined by business partnerships, while others have been enriched by them. Finding a partner through others means, such as through a business association, is even more tenuous. The best advice is to be careful. Make sure that you're a good match before you go into business together.

Learning new skills. The third possibility is to develop the traits and skills yourself. There are at least three ways to do this. The first is by trial and error. In other words, you'll develop the skills over time by learning from your mistakes. The downside to this approach is that most small businesses won't give you much time or allow you to make many mistakes. If you benefit from trial and error, it'll usually be with the third or fourth new business you start.

The second method is to take classes at a local business school. While classes may offer a wealth of valuable information, they are usually expensive, they often take a long time to complete, and they normally don't offer much in terms of real-world experience.

The third method, using a small business incubator to help you get started, is probably the most effective. Incubators are programs that provide you with hands-on advice, as well as office space and access to office equipment and supplies. They're usually sponsored by federal or local government, but there are some private ones as well. There are so many of these incubators that chances are that one is near you. For more information and the location of the incubator nearest you, call the National Business Incubation Association at 740-593-4331 or the Small Business Administration at 1-800-827-5722.