As part of OPERATION: Create Your Own Path, we’ve asked each of our featured business owners to share their best advice for other military spouses who might be considering starting a business. And we’ve reached out and researched advice from some of the leading small business experts.

Michelle Campbell

Forte Virtual Support Solutions

 “If you are in a position to hire a business coach, I highly recommend you make the investment. Most of us who start a business have never done it before. The knowledge, experience, and perspective a coach can offer are well worth the money. My coaches have saved me a lot of time and effort. Despite all of the research I did prior to launching my business, I had no idea how much more there was to learn. My coaches have advised me in many areas, such as choosing a niche, how to package my services, marketing, and they have offered insight and valuable perspective that allowed me to think of certain things in ways I had not considered. They continually offered reassurance and a proverbial “kick in the rear end” when I needed it. 

I am very glad that I sought guidance and advice very early in this journey rather than struggling on my own to figure it all out. I know the investments I have made in myself and my business will come back to me several times over.

Barbara J. Winter

Self-Employment Advocate & Award Winning Author

When I started my first business, I didn’t know another self-employed person. There was no Internet and not many books that were written for someone wanting to create a one-person operation. It was all trial and error…lots of error.

Today there are abundant resources, but some of the most important things I learned, still aren’t being acknowledged. Here are eight things I wish I had known sooner.

The business you start out with is not the business you end up with.

By it’s very nature, business is an evolutionary process. As you change and grow—and as the marketplace changes and grows—you’ll make adjustments. 

The good news is that you can get started wherever and whenever you want without having to know every detail. Be willing for your business to deliver pleasant surprises and lessons.

Refuse to take advice from uninformed sources.

It’s easy when you’re filled with self-doubt to listen to dreambashers. Don’t do it. And don’t solicit advice from those who have failed.

It’s amazing to me how often I talk to people who have abandoned a great idea because someone who knew nothing about their business (and probably wasn’t even an entrepreneur themselves) talked them out of it.

As the Persian poet Rumi advised, “When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from someone who has never left home.”

Know the difference between an expense and an investment.

Many new self-bossers see any outlay of money as an expense. While your business will have costs associated with running it, spending money now to produce a greater good in the future is an investment. 

Your money needs to go to both. Some of the biggest return on investment comes when you invest in yourself.

What you don’t know can be learned.

Part of building a successful business is determining which parts of it make your heart sing and which make your heart sink. Once you know that, you can farm out the parts that you’re not good at.

Equally important is learning how to research your ideas and connect with informed sources. If you operate on the assumption that you can acquire the information and skills you need at every stage of development, you’ll always have the pleasure of being a voluntary student.

Personal growth is a daily activity.

Paul Hawken says, “Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are.” I became an entrepreneur because I was curious about what I could become. Self-employment continues to be my best teacher.

There’s a basic truth you need to keep in mind: you can’t outperform your self-image. In order for your enterprise to reach it’s fullest potential, you have to reach yours. An occasional seminar or personal growth book or CD isn’t going to have the impact that daily work on your self will. Happily, there’s an abundance of tools to help you do just that.

Don’t confuse a project with a dream.

Your dreams are your ultimate destination; a project is a step along the way. Too many people use a project failure as an excuse to abandon their dreams.

Know the difference—and don’t make that mistake.

Patience is your best friend.

There’s a fine line between being patient and being a procrastinator. It seems to me that what many people call failure is simply running out of patience, giving up before their idea had a chance to blossom.

For most entrepreneurs, patience is an on-going challenge.

Know the difference between taking a risk and taking a calculated risk.

Timid people who are not self-bossers think that you’re a wild person jeopardizing your family and finances. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Studies have shown that successful entrepreneurs take risks, but they’re cautious, calculated ones based on research—and intuition.

Of course, part of the appeal and adventure of being joyfully jobless is not always knowing exactly how things will turn out.

Barbara Winter is the author of Making a Living Without a Job (Bantam) and Jumpstart Your Entrepreneurial Spirit (Sogno Bella).  In 1986, she began publishing Winning Ways, a newsletter now in its 27th year, to share inspiration and information with small business owners.  In addition, her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, newsletters and online.  More of her articles can be found at  Barbara also conducts seminars on creative self-employment around the US, Canada and the UK.