Advantages and Disadvantages of Business Ownership

Do you want to be a business owner someday? Before deciding, you might want to consider the following advantages and disadvantages of business ownership.[1]

Advantages of Small Business Ownership

Being a business owner can be extremely rewarding. Having the courage to take a risk and start a venture is part of the North American dream. Success brings with it many advantages:

Disadvantages of Small Business Ownership

As the little boy said when he got off his first roller-coaster ride, “I like the ups but not the downs!” Here are some of the risks you run if you want to start a small business:

In spite of these and other disadvantages, most small business owners are pleased with their decision to start a business. A survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal and Cicco and Associates indicates that small business owners and top-level corporate executives agree overwhelmingly that small business owners have a more satisfying business experience.

Interestingly, the researchers had fully expected to find that small business owners were happy with their choices; they were, however, surprised at the number of corporate executives who believed that the grass was greener in the world of small business ownership.[2]

Starting a Business

Starting a business takes talent, determination, hard work, and persistence. It also requires a lot of research and planning. Before starting your business, you should appraise your strengths and weaknesses and assess your personal goals to determine whether business ownership is for you.[3]

Questions to Ask Before You Start a Business

If you’re interested in starting a business, you need to make decisions even before you bring your talent, determination, hard work, and persistence to bear on your project.

Here are the basic questions you’ll need to address:

  • What, exactly, is my business idea? Is it feasible?
  • What industry do I want to enter?
  • What will be my competitive advantage?
  • Do I want to start a new business, buy an existing one, or buy a franchise?
  • What form of business organization do I want?

After making these decisions, you’ll be ready to take the most important step in the entire process of starting a business: you must describe your future business in the form of a business plan—a document that identifies the goals of your proposed business and explains how these goals will be achieved. Think of a business plan as a blueprint for a proposed company: it shows how you intend to build the company and how you intend to make sure that it’s sturdy. You must also take a second crucial step before you actually start up your business: You need to get financing—the money that you’ll need to get your business off the ground.

The Business Idea

For some people, coming up with a great business idea is a gratifying adventure. For most, however, it’s a daunting task. The key to coming up with a business idea is identifying something that customers want—or, perhaps more importantly, filling an unmet need. Your business will probably survive only if its purpose is to satisfy its customers—the ultimate users of its goods or services. In coming up with a business idea, don’t ask, “What do we want to sell?” but rather, “What does the customer want to buy?”[4]

To come up with an innovative business idea, you need to be creative. The idea itself can come from various sources. Prior experience accounts for the bulk of new business idea and also increases your chances of success. Take Sam Walton, the late founder of Wal-Mart. He began his retailing career at JCPenney and then became a successful franchisor of a Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. In 1962, he came up with the idea of opening large stores in rural areas, with low costs and heavy discounts. He founded his first Wal-Mart store in 1962, and when he died thirty years later, his family’s net worth was $25 billion.[5]

Industry experience also gave Howard Schultz, a New York executive for a housewares company, his breakthrough idea. In 1981, Schultz noticed that a small customer in Seattle—Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice—ordered more coffeemaker cone filters than Macy’s and many other large customers. So he flew across the country to find out why. His meeting with the owner-operators of the original Starbucks Coffee Co. resulted in his becoming part-owner of the company. Schultz’s vision for the company far surpassed that of its other owners. While they wanted Starbucks to remain small and local, Schultz saw potential for a national business that not only sold world-class-quality coffee beans but also offered customers a European coffee-bar experience. After attempting unsuccessfully to convince his partners to try his experiment, Schultz left Starbucks and started his own chain of coffee bars, which he called Il Giornale (after an Italian newspaper). Two years later, he bought out the original owners and reclaimed the name Starbucks.[6]

Ownership Options

As we’ve already seen, you can become a small business owner in one of three ways— by starting a new business, buying an existing one, or obtaining a franchise. Let’s look more closely at the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Starting from Scratch

The most common—and the riskiest—option is starting from scratch. This approach lets you start with a clean slate and allows you to build the business the way you want. You select the goods or services that you’re going to offer, secure your location, and hire your employees, and then it’s up to you to develop your customer base and build your reputation. This was the path taken by Andres Mason who figured out how to inject hysteria into the process of bargain hunting on the Web. The result is an overnight success story called Groupon.[7] Here is how Groupon (a blend of the words “group” and “coupon”) works: A daily email is sent to over 6.5 million people in over 70 cities across the United States and Canada offering a deeply discounted deal to buy something or to do something in their city. If the person receiving the email likes the deal, he or she commits to buying it. But, here’s the catch, if not enough people sign up for the deal, it is cancelled. Groupon makes money by keeping half of the revenue from the deal. The company offering the product or service gets exposure. But stay tuned: the “daily deals website isn’t just unprofitable—it’s bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars.”[8] As with all start-ups cash is always a challenge.

Buying an Existing Business

If you decide to buy an existing business, some things will be easier. You’ll already have a proven product, current customers, active suppliers, a known location, and trained employees. You’ll also find it much easier to predict the business’s future success.

There are, of course, a few bumps in this road to business ownership. First, it’s hard to determine how much you should pay for a business. You can easily determine how much things like buildings and equipment are worth, but how much should you pay for the fact that the business already has steady customers?

In addition, a business, like a used car, might have performance problems that you can’t detect without a test drive (an option, unfortunately, that you don’t get when you’re buying a business). Perhaps the current owners have disappointed customers; maybe the location isn’t as good as it used to be. You might inherit employees that you wouldn’t have hired yourself. Careful study called due diligence is necessary before going down this road.

Getting a Franchise

Lastly, you can buy a franchise. A franchisor (the company that sells the franchise) grants the franchisee (the buyer—you) the right to use a brand name and to sell its goods or services. Franchises market products in a variety of industries, including food, retail, hotels, travel, real estate, business services, cleaning services, and even weight-loss centres and wedding services. Figure 6.7 lists the top ten franchises according to Entrepreneur magazine for 2018. Franchises apply to be on the list and are then assessed used Entrepreneur’s five pillars.






7-Eleven Inc.




The UPS Store




Sonic Drive-in


Great Clips


Taco Bell




Sport Clips

In Canada, 1 out of every 14 workers is directly or indirectly employed by the franchise industry and there are an estimated 1,300 franchise brands operating in Canada. Individual investments vary widely – from $10,000 to millions. KFC franchises, for example, require a total investment of $1.3 million to $2.5 million each. This fee includes the cost of the property, equipment, training, start-up costs, and the franchise fee—a one-time charge for the right to operate as a KFC outlet. McDonald’s is in the same price range ($1 million to $2.3 million). SUBWAY sandwich shops offer a more affordable alternative, with expected total investment ranging from $116,000 to $263,000. Visit Canadian Franchising Opportunities [9]to see franchises by level of investment required.

In addition to your initial investment, you’ll have to pay two other fees on a monthly basis—a royalty fee (typically from 3 to 12 percent of sales) for continued support from the franchisor and the right to keep using the company’s trade name, plus an advertising fee to cover your share of national and regional advertising. You’ll also be expected to buy your products from the franchisor.[10]

But there are disadvantages. The cost of obtaining and running a franchise can be high, and you have to play by the franchisor’s rules, even when you disagree with them. The franchisor maintains a great deal of control over its franchisees. For example, if you own a fast-food franchise, the franchise agreement will likely dictate the food and beverages you can sell; the methods used to store, prepare, and serve the food; and the prices you’ll charge. In addition, the agreement will dictate what the premises will look like and how they’ll be maintained. As with any business venture, you need to do your homework before investing in a franchise.

  1. Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU. (2016). Frequently Asked Questions: What are the Pros and Cons of Owning a Business? Retrieved from:
  2. Chun, J. (1997). Type E Personality: What makes entrepreneurs tick? Entrepreneur. Retrieved from:
  3. Allen, K. (2001). Getting Started in Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship for Dummies. New York: Wiley.
  4. Thurm, S., & Lublin, J. S. (2005, November 14). Peter Drucker’s Legacy Includes Simple Advice: It’s All about the People. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from:
  5. Krass, P. (1997). Sam Walton: Running a Successful Business: Ten Rules that Worked for Me. In The Book of Business Wisdom: Classic Writings by the Legends of Commerce and Industry (Pp. 225-230). New York: Wiley.
  6. Schultz, H., & Yang, D. J. (1997). Pour Your Heart into It. New York: Hyperion.
  7. Steiner, C. (2010). Meet the Fastest Growing Company Ever. Forbes. Retrieved from:
  8. The Week. (2011). Groupon’s ‘Startling’ Reversal of Fortune. Retrieved from:
  9. Peterson, H. (2014). Here’s How Much It Costs To Open Different Fast Food Franchises In The US. Retrieved from:
  10. Seid, M., & Ainsley, K. M. (2002). Franchise Fee—Made Simple.   Retrieved from:


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