As a serial entrepreneur with my own huge failures and some great successes I see how others may be afraid to start their own business. It’s tough, idiotic sometimes; full of risk and the rewards may or may not find their way to you. As a Business Mentor I have heard every excuse in the book why a person shouldn’t take the plunge and create a startup.
Then the budding start-up guy hears the mantra – fail early, fail fast and he loses all confidence in his dream. There are always lessons to be learned, skills to develop and excuses to put your startup on hold. Let’s look at a few of them.
1. What If I Fail?
You might want to ask what failure would look like to you. Is it not being filthy rich and retiring early, or selling your startup in two years so you can move on to a new adventure? I know many entrepreneurs who are comfortable in their business earning a living wage but doing what they love at their own pace. Have they failed? Not in their mind.
The mantra “Fail early, fail fast” has been described by the Globe and Mail as “the stupidest business concept of all time.” It sounded goofy to me too when I first heard it and its many variations. What it means is if you are going to fail, it’s best to do it early so you can get up, dust yourself off and learn from your mistakes. Fail fast means once you have failed early you can begin the learning process sooner.
I think it is more hype than anything but there is a peculiar truth to it.
2. Not the Right Time
OMG, I hear this all the time! When is the right time? It’s like the guy who penny–pinches his whole life so he can retire to a warm place in the sun then dies a week after retiring. The right time is when you have the idea and the passion is still warm in your heart. Don’t listen to people who are not entrepreneurs!
3. Perfecting Your Idea
I had a client who worked on an invention for many years trying to perfect the darn thing. It was a working prototype when he first showed me, certainly enough of a Minimum Viable Product to attract investor interest but he felt it needed to be perfect. The last time I had heard from him he had moved onto something else because he had run out of money and someone had developed a similar product and got it to market before he did.
4. Life Gets in the Way
I can see this in an alternative universe. A young father has an incredible idea and his wife says it will revolutionize the world but let’s wait until our toddlers have left home for college.
There’s never a perfect time just as there is never a perfect idea.
5. You Need Specific Skillsets
I agree with this one but there are ways around lacking specific skills. I also must admit I have met ‘entrepreneurs’ who should have stayed at their part time job at the post office. I prefer to think that anyone can be a successful entrepreneur (you have to define your idea of success).
The easiest answer is to partner with a nerd genius that does have the skills needed to bring your idea to fruition. Now all you need is some basic business skills you can learn online or hire a professional to help. One guy told me he couldn’t possibly run a startup because he didn’t ‘have a head for numbers.’ Hmm, accountants abound where he lives. The absence of any skillset can be mitigated by a number of ways.
6. No Experience
This might be like the fail early/fail fast scenario but it also falls under the ‘hire people with experience’ scenario. My MBA students worry that they won’t find a high paying job when they graduate because they have no relevant experience. I know they are all very industrious and had part-time jobs while going through our graduate school so I pointed out to them that doing an above average job at Starbucks is work experience and is nothing to laugh at. How many of us have learned on the job and worked our way up from there?
7. I Don’t Know Many People
That may have been a fact before the Internet but now there is no excuse for not connecting or networking with people. My buddy who is quite the milquetoast kind of guy told me the other day he had 10,000 followers on LinkedIn. I was incredulous but he told me he made it a habit of following people every day and over a year had quite a list of targeted followers in his field.
8. Not As Easy As It Sounds
Of course it is! It’s easier today than it was fifty years ago or even 15 years ago. When I was running my ad agency in Vancouver I needed the perfect office with all the trimmings in the best part of Vancouver or I would be shunned and never make a dime. It was expected for any respectable entrepreneur to have an office.
I worked with a multimillion-dollar company last year that has fifteen employees all of whom work from home. They meet once a week at a pub to share their successes. Online boutiques and companies like Amazon that does everything for you have supplanted the brick and mortar business mentality.
9. Risk is Dangerous
I was never the kind of guy who would leap out of a perfectly good airplane with a thing on my back – it’s risky! Pain is bad to some and pleasure to others. Risk is worth more money if you are investing in private companies but risk is healthy. A healthy element of risk makes for better planning, agile pivoting around issues and better decision-making. Yes, you can lose everything but if you have Plan B, C and D you will mitigate the possibility of failure and reduce your risk.
10. I’m Waiting for the Economy to Improve
You could be waiting a very long time. Opportunity knocks at the craziest times and usually has nothing to do with the economy. When I was a commercial photographer I loved a poor economy because well-managed businesses realized they had to advertise more in bad times that made my business grow. In the 2008 meltdown I was negotiating to buy a beer importing company. It made a lot of sense to me that when people were depressed they drank alcohol to feel better. The deal fell through but it was a good idea.
11. Listening to Others
It will never work, are you crazy? These words came out of my buddy’s father’s mouth and crushed my friend. Gathering him away from his parent I pointed out to him that his Dad had been a blue collar working guy for 40 years and a trade unionist to boot. He loved the 9-5 structure with a regular pay check (and let’s not forget the yearly raise) because he had no choice when he started work at eighteen to raise his family.
12. I’m Scared!
That is probably the most honest answer I hear. One of the hardest things I ever did was to leave my cushy job in my late twenties and start my first full time startup. The utter fear turned into pure excitement when I rented my first office and moved in with only a desk and a chair. I had nothing but hope and a dream and it was exhilarating.
A friend started an energy company recently with the intention to ‘change the world.’ I believe he will one day. How ever you define success, whatever your motivation to build a startup you have to work it out in your mind what being an entrepreneur will mean to you, your family and your future. Many entrepreneurs have gone ahead of you and most are more than willing to share how they did it.
Now grab your cajones and build that startup before you find another excuse.
Gary is the author of “How to Start A Successful Business – the First Time” on Amazon