How to be a successful business owner

Oct 19, 2012 at 10:12 a.m. ET

Owning your own business and working for yourself is a dream for many but only a reality to a few. In fact, only about 11 percent of the population owns their own businesses.

Store owner

It's no surprise that successfully running your own business requires a lot of hard work. When you first start out, you could spend every day working for months and months on end. Financially speaking, you may have to keep your full- or part-time job to make ends meet until your business takes off. Do you have what it takes to be a successful business owner?

Get support

Having support from your partner and loved ones is vital. You can't go at it alone and need to have people encouraging and challenging you along the way. This being said, don't expect your partner to be on board right away. Prove to yourself and others that this isn't just a "phase" or "hobby" that's going to fizzle out. It's a lot easier to gain support when you already have an action plan in place. Start your business as part-time work while still keeping your 9-to-5. Save at least three to six months of your salary so you're not financially strapped if things don't go as planned. This will prove to your partner and yourself that you're serious about making this dream a reality.

Make a business plan

All business owners will tell you that having a plan in place is required in order to be successful. Set goals — both long- and short-term. Write out all the costs involved — equipment, supplies, office space, employees, etc. With a plan in place, you're able to set a schedule, manage your time, manage your stress, learn to say "no" and more. Think about it — if you set a goal of losing weight but don't have a plan in place, do you think you will be successful? Probably not. Now imagine if you have that same goal but with a specific daily eating and exercise plan and people to support you. Your success rate has just quadrupled.

Promote, promote, promote

Market your product, your brand and yourself in every way possible. The more people know about you and your product, the more potential buyers you'll have. Make business cards and post them in local stores, hand out fliers, build a website or blog, take advantage of social media, network with those with similar businesses, and talk about your business to anyone and everyone. The biggest mistake potential business owners make is not getting themselves out there, whether because they're afraid or they don't know how. Believe in your business and yourself.

Find a work-life balance

This goes back to making a business plan and setting goals. With the internet, television, kids and chores, it's easy to get distracted and for life to get in the way. Your business falls second (or third or fourth) to all of life's other responsibilities. If you truly want to own your own business, you can't let this happen. Commit yourself to sticking to your schedule every day. Make sure your schedule includes time to hang out with the family, alone time and time for chores or whatever else it is you need to get done. Remember to ask for help if you need it. Having a work-life balance, a business plan with goals in place and support are all necessities when it comes to running a business. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the ride. After all, if you truly are doing something you love, you should never have to work another day in your life.

More on running a business

Are you ready to own a business?
Parenting and running a home-based business
Chasing the Dream: How to be a work-at-home success