You’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and you finally have your business idea. It’s a great idea that solves a huge problem in an elegant way.
This idea can scale, and go global. There’s no one in the space today, or the existing players are weak. You think about this idea day and night, and you dream about starting the company and making it real. But, for some reason you just can’t do it. It just seems too risky…plus you have a great job. Sound familiar?
Many people simply talk themselves out of starting their own business. Before I started my company, I had a million thoughts about why it was an insane idea. In retrospect, I see that what I thought were legitimate fears were just excuses.
Below are the most common reasons I have heard from peers about why they can’t start a business, and some advice on how to get past the issue:
1. “It’s not the right time.”
I know people who became entrepreneurs as teenagers, and others who started their first company in their 60s.
Here’s a secret that anyone that has started a business knows: There is NEVER a right time. It just does not exist. You can always convince yourself that you need more money, experience, time, connections, confidence, skills, business acumen…the list goes on and on.
My advice? Have faith that now is actually the perfect time. A year or two after you have started your business, you will see that it absolutely was.
2. “What if it fails?”
Entrepreneurs tend to be people who are filled with such confidence that they don’t focus on any chance of failure. But the tough fact is that 80 percent of businesses fail within the first 18 months, and it can be paralysing to face those odds.
My recommendation is to embrace the possibility of failure. Why? Because if you fail, you will learn something tremendously valuable about yourself, about business, and about life.
You may start another business, or you might realise that entrepreneurship isn’t for you. But if you don’t try, you will simply never know, and the fear of failure should never stop you from doing anything.
Remember, people who are on their deathbed usually regret the things they didn’t do, not the things they did.
3. “I haven’t saved enough money.”
Many people who aspire to start businesses are the primary breadwinner in their family, and they cannot afford to live without a salary coming in. I recommend that anyone who starts a business save enough money to live for 18 months without income coming in.
If your business hasn’t gotten enough traction within 18 months to produce income, and you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, then you can shut the business down and get a job with the satisfaction of having given entrepreneurship a shot.
What I like about the “18 month rule” is that it provides clarity to yourself (and perhaps your spouse), and it makes it easier to quit a lucrative job because you have a plan.
4. “People don’t see me as an entrepreneur.”
First of all, as a budding entrepreneur you have to ignore what others think of you because there will always be doubters in your life. Avoid those people if you can. But more importantly, if you take the leap and start your business, you will be stunned at how fast people who were originally naysayers will see you as a born entrepreneur.
Perception is reality, and when you are the boss, you will be seen as a leader despite the fact that you used to be (for instance) a customer service manager, a payroll clerk, or a janitor. In America, people respect those who have taken a chance and put their reputation, capital, and career on the line.
5. “It just seems so hard.”
You’re right. Starting a business is very hard. It might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life.
You will lose sleep, fight with your spouse, have less time for your kids, and potentially lose all of your money. Have I scared you yet? I hope so. Because there is no getting around this one – if you aren’t ready to work your tail off and get your hands very dirty, don’t even think about starting a business.
If starting a business was easy, everyone would do it. The easy decision is to keep working for that secure pay cheque, and that’s exactly why most people don’t start companies. My advice is to be very honest with yourself, and if you know deep down that you can make it work, then take that leap of faith and make it work.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Build Solid Back-Room Basics For Business Success
What do South African entrepreneurs really know about what goes on behind the scenes building of businesses?
South Africa has a vibrant start-up culture with great ideas starting out with a bang, but closing down with a whimper because entrepreneurs picture the glory at the destination, but not the nitty gritty of the journey to get there.
Be smart about scale
When I started out, I literally did everything myself. I negotiated and signed leases, I arranged the furnishing for our apartments and managed the interior décor process. When guests started using our apartments, I signed them in at reception, and then carried their bags.
At that stage, there was no money in my business to pay for attorneys, interior designers and decorators and there certainly wasn’t enough money for porters.
However, when we got to 70 apartments, it didn’t make sense for me to be a porter any longer, so I hired someone to do that job, explaining clearly what I expected of him. Before I did that, though, I spent time designing incentives for him so that he would be more affordable for me, and so that he could earn as much money as possible.
Related: Training Is A Two-Way Trick
Know your talents – and your limitations
There are certain things I’m really good at, but I know without a doubt that sales isn’t one of them – and without sales, you don’t have a business. I couldn’t afford a top-flight salesperson, but I knew that I could attract the right talent with the right business model. I set some high targets for Pamela Niemand, but offered her one third of the business if she met them. We both won: she earned a share in a successful, trend-setting business, and my trend-setting business became successful!
Use your skills – but know when to hand over
My background in corporate finance meant that I had all the accounting skills I needed when we first started out, but I knew that the time would come when I would need someone focused on that side of the business full time. Doing it all myself first meant that I could brief my first full-time accountant clearly and with a deep understanding of what would be required – and that I could help that person find and fix any challenges based on my experience.
In summary, my simple advice to anyone starting out would be to bootstrap your business yourself without investors or staff for as long as you can, but don’t over-extend yourself. Know when to delegate tasks away so that you can focus on what you’re really good at – but don’t do it before you have a solid understanding of what’s required. Know what you’ll never be able to do, and bring in that resource from the beginning – but do it based on performance-based incentives, so that your fledgling business doesn’t lose out if your early hires don’t perform.
The Myth About The Relationship Between Entrepreneurs And Taking Risks
This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.
“I can’t be an entrepreneur or start a business. I don’t have the appetite for risk.” This line is spoken regularly to brave few that leave the perceived safety of a job, take the plunge and venture into the unknown world of being an entrepreneur. However, there is a gross misunderstanding in the appetite for risk that entrepreneurs are believed to have innately inside of them.
The little-known truth is that the majority of entrepreneurs don’t like taking risks and according to Luca Rigotti and Mathew Ryan in their paper that explores a model for quantifying risk and its translation into enterprising action, the results were very interesting.
Risk is explained by these theorists as taking action where the outcomes are unpredictable as well the factors leading to that outcome are unknown. One of the theorists in this area, Saraswati, who coined the term “tolerance for ambiguity” has a more accurate description of what the outside world deems taking a risk.
In simple terms, entrepreneurs don’t go head-first into the shark infested water because they like the idea of danger and potentially being eaten alive; or the thrill of being able to say that they survived whilst others perished in a pool of maimed flesh. They carefully calculate that the sharks have been fed recently, some of the sharks are ragged tooth sharks that whilst looking like they are set to devour a human being, are actually incapable of opening their jaws wide enough to bite. For those sharks that still have space or who smell blood and can’t resist the urge to kill, the entrepreneur has a cage set up that he can retreat into quickly and a knife with which to protect himself.
Tolerance for ambiguity is the careful evaluation of what is known at the moment where a decision must be made and an open-mindedness for what is not known. This, coupled with the agility to change course when new information is presented, has earned the label of high risk appetite. The appetite is not for the risk, but it is the ability to move down a path, when all the information is not known.
I likened it to a person moving around in the dark holding a candle. The candle casts a light that illuminates a limited parameter around the person holding the candle. What is beyond the light that the candle casts, is unknown and potentially a risk. But as the person moves forward, the light reveals what was unknown and in the shadows. As the light reveals new information and new challenges added to what they have already learnt, the person can make better informed decisions. The tolerance is in not knowing what lies in the shadows yet to be illuminated by the candle and then the confidence in his or her own ability to act on what new information is discovered.
None of this behaviour is risky or irresponsible. There is careful consideration for what is known and a tolerance for what is unknown. And once there is more information available, a calculated next step is taken and more information is assimilated into what is now known. This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.
7 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs To Adopt Today
Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…
For some people, becoming an entrepreneur is as easy as stepping off a bus. They have a big idea, they bring it to life, they hire employees and the next thing they are in a building smothered in branding and living the business dream. For others, the idea and the passion are there but they are unsure as to how they can make these into a sustainable reality. Entrepreneurial spirit isn’t like instant coffee – you don’t add ideas and suddenly get all the skills you need to thrive.
Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…
1. Believable vision
Make sure that your vision is believable and achievable. It has to live in the realms of possibility, not as a blue-sky idea that looks good on paper but wouldn’t work in reality. You need to be able to live this vision so make it realistic and achievable. This will not only keep you on track, but your employees as well.
2. Be inclusive
You need to ensure that every person who works with you feels as if they are part of your vision and understand it. They need to relate to where the business is going and how it plans to get there. Many leaders don’t understand why employees are not engaged with their business and it’s because many of them don’t actually understand what the business does.
3. Communication is critical
If you don’t have fantastic communication skills, then now is the time to hone them. When it comes to building employee morale, commitment and engagement, nothing works as effectively as constant communication. The same applies to client relationships. You need to repeat the vision and ethos of the company at every opportunity and you need to be part of the team that does this communication.
4. Be visible and transparent
You are communicating, now you need to make that communication genuine by being both open and clear. People respond incredibly well to transparency. They feel as if they are part of something that recognises their value and contribution and it fosters a more inclusive company culture. Often toxic cultures come about thanks to a lack of communication and visibility. People know when things are being kept secret and react negatively to it, regardless of whether they’re an employee, a customer or a manager.
5. Be practical
You aren’t going to build an empire in a fortnight so focus on a realistic and practical business strategy that has clear benchmarks and even clearer goals. Communicate these with the company and keep everybody on the same page. Practical and achievable means long-term success.
6. Build opportunities
As people become immersed in your company and part of its growth they will also need opportunities to grow. You need to tie their careers to the business and create opportunities for them.
7. Be human
It takes people to build a culture, a company and a future. It’s essential that you are human in your interactions and your treatment of others. The impact that a down to earth and authentic attitude can have on a company is extraordinary.
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