David NilssenBy David Nilssen, CEO & Co-founder of Guidant Financial

We all have dreams. They start off big when we’re very young. As we grow up, most of us temper our ambitions with a dose of reality and a need to fit in—to do what others do. This is true for aspiring (and frankly existing) entrepreneurs.

First, let me say that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. There is tremendous potential for reward—both material and in personal freedom and satisfaction—but there is risk in entrepreneurship, and a fearful or risk-averse person should not attempt it.

Still reading? Then let’s assume you’ve got the guts to make the jump into small business or franchise ownership. There are so many options and yes, obstacles, that it’s critical to make a brutal honest self-assessment and choose the business opportunity that plays to your personal strengths.

I highly recommend StrengthsFinders from the book Now Discover Your Strengths. It allows you to see what types of activities you’re naturally drawn to. Choosing a business that aligns with your strengths means you’re more likely to work in your genius zone. And that of course, is more likely to lead to success.

Here are some basic guidelines for maximizing your strengths and affinities as an entrepreneur:

  • Buying an existing business allows you the security of a proven business model and built-in clientele. But you own the brand and thus it gives you the wiggle room to try new things and take creative chances.
  • If you’ve got great ideas, a solid business background, and self-confidence in spades you’re just the sort of entrepreneur that can build a new business from the ground up.
  • If you appreciate the value of a proven business model franchising can be a wonderful way to be in business for yourself, but not by yourself.  Buying an existing franchise doesn’t offer much in the way of a creative outlet but you’ll have the support of the franchisor and neighboring franchisees to rely on.
  • If you’re somewhere in between and are drawn to both new adventures and support, a new franchise gives you the entrepreneurial experience of starting from scratch, but with the security of an established brand and business model.

Your business dreams will be that much closer to becoming a reality when you take a hard look at your strengths and weaknesses and use them as a compass to choose the right business system and type. By doing so, you’ll have a greater chance of success.

David Nilssen is the CEO & Co-Founder of Guidant Financial . A notable thought-leader in the small business industry, he was recognized as one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in 2011 and co-authored the book Making the Jump Into Small Business Ownership. Follow him on Twitter at @davidnilssen and @guidant.