By Jim Callahan.
So you have aspirations to build your own convenience store chain? That’s great, but as you move from an executive role into actual ownership, there are many more issues you will have to address, some you probably can’t even conceive of at the moment.
For starters, you are going to need capital and it should not be borrowed capital. By using someone else’s money you are starting out on the wrong foot. Cash from friends and relatives is better saved for a rainy day that you hope never occurs. I have found that borrowed money has far less meaning. While you’re busy saving for your investment, you are learning how hard dollars are to come by.
Another thing I have learned is that having enough money to buy or start a business might make you a business owner, but not a successful business owner. Incidentally, however much capital you think you will need to start a business, I would strongly advise you to add 50% to that total. It’s almost always more than you think. There are many additional needs that will continually amaze and surprise you.
Another key to success is something I learned from a dear friend at the American Management Association and that is to surround yourself with good people. To me, this is one of the most essential things that you can do to give yourself a real chance at success. And never stop learning. Surrounding yourself with good people means you will have the opportunity to learn from them and continually bounce ideas off of them. To this end, strongly consider forming an experienced board of directors. Having an independent board ensures there will always be someone that will tell you what you need to hear versus what you want to hear.
Prepare for Success
Before you invest, ask yourself many questions and be brutally honest in responses. Owning a business is one of the most important decisions that you will ever make and it carries long-term and far-ranging implications.
One thing that I have noticed through the years is how many business owners I have met that are not fully prepared for the challenges of owning a store. Do you have a great work ethic? Your employees will watch and use you as an example. You must always set the bar very high and recruit the employees that are committed to operational excellence.
I remember fondly my first boss, Art Neiderbuhl, from the three summers I worked in a grocery warehouse in high school. Art was a very good worker and when we were busy he would start whistling upbeat John Phillip Sousa marching tunes and we would all start working harder and faster because of the great cadence. With this simple gesture, he demonstrated great leadership that we all appreciated.
Do you possess similar characteristics? Part of management is the art of getting things done through other people.
If I was asked what the most critical quality necessary is to achieve long-term success as a business owner it would be discipline. Every successful small business owner that I have ever encountered has possessed great, unwavering discipline.
As the leader of your company your employees will watch your every move. If you come in late, so will they. If you quit early, so will they. If you take long breaks or sick days, so will they.
As you learn to master these realities, follow your dreams to ensure your success. Without a vision the journey is far less worth living, but as you begin to accomplish your set goals you can be sure that you have built a solid foundation and not wasted time chasing a fairytale.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected].