Published Date

January 1, 1946

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 39: Shall I Go into Business for Myself? (1946)

Thousands of persons in the United States armed forces are seriously considering going into business for themselves when they return to civilian life. The various problems, rewards, and hazards of self-employment, therefore, deserve careful consideration.

This pamphlet gives objective information about small businesses. It discusses factors that result in success for some small businesses and failure for others. It raises numerous questions which each individual reader might well consider in deciding whether to go into business for himself. It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of self-employment.

All members of a discussion group will probably benefit personally from a frank discussion of this important subject.


Discussion leader’s role

As discussion leader, you have a two-fold task: presenting factual information about small business and encouraging an exchange of ideas and information by members of your discussion group.

Your own preparation is necessary to make your discussion meeting a success. Study of this pamphlet will help you outline and prepare your meeting. There are other things, however, which you should consider in planning your program. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful

  1. Give a copy of this pamphlet to the editor of your installation newspaper and suggest that he announce the time and place of your discussion meeting. He might also wish to prepare an article about the pamphlet.
  2. Suggest that librarians in your area place copies of this pamphlet and supplementary reading materials on a special reading table, with a suitable poster announcing the discussion meeting on “‘Shall I Go into Business for Myself ?”
  3. Have local artists make posters which you can place on bulletin boards, in mess halls, in dayrooms, and other appropriate places where they will attract the attention of persons who maybe interested in attending your meeting.
  4. Tell interested individuals about, your program and suggest that they at tend and bring their friends.

Whether you succeed in getting important information across to members of your group and whether they participate enthusiastically in discussing the pros and cons of small business will depend largely on the kind of discussion meeting you plan:

What kind of discussion is best?

If you, as a good discussion leader, give careful preparation to your meeting, it is probable that an informal group discussion will be the best for this subject. An informal meeting snakes it particularly important that you be well informed on the subject so that you can ask intelligent questions and keep the discussion on really important issues.

You will find it helpful to have a blackboard in your discussion room. On this you can list a few important questions which will stimulate the interest of your group. Or you might ask your group to suggest the major advantages and disadvantages of self-employment. You can list these on the blackboard and refer to them during your discussion. Instead of listing your questions, you might invite members of your group to raise their own questions, which you would list on the blackboard. Any of these methods will help you guide the discussion and will tend to bring greater participation by members of your group.

If your discussion group is particularly large, you may wish to plan a forum, panel, or symposium instead of an informal group discussion.

Speakers for these should be well informed on the advantages and disadvantages of opening an individual business. A good type of speaker would be a man who had considerable experience in self-employment as well as in working for a big concern. You should see that he has an opportunity to read this pamphlet before his talk, as it may help him to cover both the pros and cons.

No matter which type of discussion you use, members of your group should be given ample opportunity to ask their own questions and to express their own views about the possibilities of small business.

Handbook for discussion leaders

You will find EM 1, GI Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders, a helpful handbook for use in planning GI Roundtable discussion meetings. It discusses in detail the advantages and disadvantages of various methods of group discussion, such as forums, panels, symposiums, debates, and informal group discussion.

Leaders who wish to plan discussions to be broadcast over radios or loud-speaker systems of the Armed Forces Radio Service will find many helpful suggestions and much sound advice in EM 90, GI Radio Roundtable.

Questions on small business

Devise your own questions as you plan and outline your program, and invite members of your group to ask questions after the discussion meeting gets under way. Make whatever use you can, however, of the questions in the headings and text of this pamphlet and of the additional questions below:

  1. Where does the dividing line fall between small, medium, or large business? Are the chances of success for small business greater or less than before World War II? Are men with previous experience or those who undertake self-employment with a fresh point of view more likely to succeed?
  2. What are the most promising fields for starting small businesses? Which fields are least promising? Does the fact that a certain field is dominated by a few large businesses mean that a small newcomer cannot possibly succeed? Does a wide-open field assure success or a sudden rush of competitors?
  3. How much should the government help veterans who wish to go into business for themselves? Should similar help be given nonveterans? Which is the better policy: to borrow money and start in a big way or start in a small way on your savings without going into debt?
  4. Is there any direct connection between a flourishing economy of many small businesses and a staunchly democratic political system? Is the high mortality rate among small businesses a peril to democracy?
  5. Do you prefer to trade at an independent store where prices are a little higher or at a chain store where prices are lower? Is it the quality of goods that makes the difference to you, or the price, or the kind of service you get, or what? How do your own views on these matters apply to the problem of whether you should or should not go into business for yourself?
  6. What attracts you to the idea of starting a business of your own? Is your ambition based on daydreaming or on a sober analysis of your assets and liabilities? After you have carefully considered all the encouraging and discouraging factors, do you have confidence that you would succeed in operating your own business?


For Further Reading

These books are suggested for supplementary reading if you have access to them or wish to purchase them from the publishers. They are not approved nor officially supplied by the War Department. They have been selected because they give additional information and represent different points of view.

Chain Stores—Pro and Con. By Helen Dallas. No. 40 of Public Affairs Pamphlets, published by Public Affairs Committee, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 20, N. Y. (1942). 10 cents.

The Small Business (Course 1, Organization; Course 2, Operation). Nos. 714 and 715 of War Department Education Manuals (1944). Available from United States Armed Forces Institute, Madison 3, Wis.

Small Business and Its Place and Problems. By Emerson P. Schmidt. No. 7 of Post-War Readjustment Bulletins, published by Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, 1615 H St., N. W., Washington, D. C. (1944). Single copies free on request.

Facts Veterans Should Know Before Starting a Business. Published by National Association of Better Business Bureaus, 212 Cuyahoga Building, Cleveland 14, Ohio (1944). Free on request to servicemen.

Handbook for Retailers: Planning the Future of Your Business. Published by Committee for Economic Development, 285 Madison Ave., New York 17, N.Y. (1944). 10 cents.

Veterans and Small Business. A reprint of various articles from Domestic Commerce issued by United States Department of Commerce (May 1945). Available from Superintendent of Documents, Washington 25, D. C. 10 cents.

Establishing and Operating Your Own Business. No. 19 of Industrial Series issued by Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce (1945). Available from Superintendent of Documents. 10 cents.

How to Start Your Own Business. By Walter F. Shaw and F. W. Kay. Published by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, 540 North Michigan Ave., Chicago 11, Ill. (1945). $2.00.

Should I Start My Own Business? By P. D. Converse. Special Bulletin No. 5. Published by University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill. (1945). Free on request.