It’s the weekend, and just for a moment or two, we might allow ourselves to daydream about starting our own business. Then comes Monday, and we 'get back to real life.' Is starting our own business irresponsible, unrealistic and risky? Is it, as most of us say, something that is only for the lucky few; the rich, young, well-connected and experienced? Or can we start a new business against what we consider the odds?
Perspective: Starting our own business is irresponsible, unrealistic and risky
We might all dream about starting our own business at some point. We might imagine the freedom, the money, and the chance to finally do what we love to do and are good at. But, we all say, it is just not realistic. And just as there are a high number of books, websites and article informing us how great starting our own business can be, there seem to be an equally high number telling us not to. It’s just not a good idea.
"I have this great idea, but I don’t have the right skills to start a new business. It just wouldn't be very smart, I need security, and it is doomed to fail. I am a woman, and women just don't do that sort of thing, it's harder for us. It would be selfish to my children. I am not good enough. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I don't have it in me. I just don't have the right connections. There are too many barriers to entry preventing me from giving this dream a shot. So many businesses fail. I don't have the luck that successful people have. I am too old. I don't have a degree, I am not smart enough."
The number of excuses we use for ourselves or others is endless, and, whilst some may be valid, others may not, and when the founder and CEO of Startup Professionals Martin Zwilling wrote on the topic on Inc.com, he wondered: "Is your reason for not starting your own business based on reality, or your own qualms?"
In the article, he talks about some well-known misconceptions. For example, we should not even get started if we don't have investors on board or are not in possession of a special business diploma. And then there's the requirement to be 'young and crazy,' and that your ideas have to be quirky and new. In fact, according to Zwilling: "You don't have to be a new business advisor like me to hear all the excuses for not starting your own business," and he also quoted some well-known stories of companies that managed to be successful against all odds, as examples of stories that we usually ignore when we want to start a new business.
Take that well-known story about Colonel Sanders, who was 62 years old when he founded the world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). No matter how inspiring the story was, it remains something most of us ignore when we want to start our own business. Sure, Steve Jobs' Apple was really born in the garage of his parental home, and there are all those success stories of people who never finished school or college, like Dave Thomas, founder and CEO of fast-food empire Wendy's; the founder of Dell Computers Michael Dells; and none other than Richard Branson, who, reportedly, had to deal with 'being dyslexic and poor academic performance.' But that was different, we say. They were lucky.
“Is your reason for not starting your own business based on reality, or your own qualms?"
These old myths
One of the most overpowering 'myths' stopping us from starting our own business is that it is too risky. That a paid job is a much safer option and, perhaps more importantly, that we can't do anything about whether our own company will be a success or not. It is, basically, as if, from the word go, we tell ourselves we should not trust our own abilities. Instead, we should blindly trust those that have gone and done it (the people who have created the business we work for). Those individuals are, after all, cleverer, luckier that way, and thus able to provide us with the security that we cannot.
Yet some might call that ‘conditioned thinking,’ and we could say that many of us tend to ignore the guidance, training, and ready-made business packages available, all designed to help set up a new-business beginner for success.
There are, in fact, many inspirational anecdotes online that tell a different story. For example, when blogger and entrepreneur Alyssa Padgett wrote about the "lies we tell ourselves instead of starting a business," she said: "Yes, it’s risky, but I trust me way more than I trust someone else to make my dreams happen. If I want to (start a marketing agency, write a book, teach music, etc), then it’s up to me to make that happen."
She also referred to a tweet by a friend of hers, Chris Guillebeau, author of e.g. The Money Tree and 100 Side Hustles, who wrote: "It’s funny to me, how working for yourself (in whatever form) is still seen as 'too risky' by a lot of people. Isn’t the real risk in entrusting your future to anyone else?"
“It’s funny to me, how working for yourself (in whatever form) is still seen as 'too risky' by a lot of people. Isn’t the real risk in entrusting your future to anyone else?”
The time would be...well, now
We might also argue that it is not the right time to start a new business. But as an author on Forbes pointed out in an article about how to prepare ourselves for an opportunity: "There is never a right time to be an entrepreneur."
In fact, you could see now as the best time, or, as Sam Dumitriu, research director from the Entrepreneurs Network, put it on City AM: "Technological shifts have disrupted old industries and created new business opportunities."
Similarly, other experts such as Susan Ward, a multiple Small Business Influencer Awards winner and small business consultant and writer, explain that today, there are "business ideas all around us" and that everyone can train themselves to learn to recognise a business opportunity.
When we do allow ourselves to look at things from another angle, as another writer on Forbes pointed out, the recent huge world changes could in fact be "the very motivators and opportunities that make you successful in the venture you have always dreamed of starting."
Thankfully, there are ample personal stories and experiences to be found online that could inspire us; not despite, but because of the way the world is right now.
Take this writer, who uses her own success story as a Social Media Strategist to show that "rapid technological changes" bring not just job insecurity, but also new opportunities.
“There is never a right time to be an entrepreneur"
Different times, different thinking
All in all, when it comes to starting our own business, according to experts such as Dumitriu the time has come to change the way we look at things. "We tend to get stuck in our ways, so our aim is not just to share know-how, but to change mindsets too," he wrote in the aforementioned article on City AM.
According to Dumitriu, developing an entrepreneurialism mindset is so key, it should be taught in schools, since, although "not every student will start a $1 trillion, tech business," most young people "would benefit from adopting a more entrepreneurial mindset." After all, success in the information economy depends not just on "what you know," but on "what you can find out," he wrote, and continued: "The ability to stick at a problem, work independently, and seek out creative solutions will be valuable in all careers."
Apart from our mindset, it is often our own 'inner critic' that can stop us from starting our own business, and it would pay to deal to start trusting our instinct rather than our fears.
No one doubts that starting a business is risky, and that it might not be for everyone. It may be an inauthentic attempt to walk away from something else in life (a job we hate), or to fulfil a desire to be famous (think Richard Branson). Or, in truth, we may really just not be up to it.
But, there are endless inspiring stories by those people who have started their own business without much experience, at the 'wrong' age, with the 'wrong' background, and who have managed to create opportunities despite all the myths. Luckily, there are ample stories to be found online that will tell you about the reasons why you should consider it: From being able to escape the rat race to working from anywhere, and even to create job security, as this story on foundr will do for example.
“Entrepreneurial mindset: The ability to stick at a problem, work independently, and seek out creative solutions will be valuable in all careers"