Starting a business is absolutely challenging. It will push every emotional trigger we have and quickly drain our resources. The highs and the lows will be exhausting. But some of this push-and-pull stress can be released if we take a more realistic approach. Here are 7 comments you hear frequently from small business folks that we need to reconsider.
- Do what you love and the money will follow
This one is repeated so often that it is widely accepted. The reality: rarely connected!I can love to color DoodleArt Posters but that doesn’t mean that I can create a business from this activity. I can color from now until the end of time, but I will most likely get mighty hungry if that’s my plan to earn a living.Without understanding how doing what “I love” will translate to you paying me, there will be no business.Business is really not about me! That’s right. I can have the dream and the desire and yes, even the talent! But it doesn’t guarantee that anyone will be interested enough to pay me for my product or service.Sometimes doing what we love will stay a part-time hobby and never translate into a successful business. Your challenge is to take the time to brainstorm and research until you find the link between doing what you love and connecting to the market that will pay you. It doesn’t ‘just happen!’
- Build it and they will come
Of course you know this one became popular with the movie, “Field of Dreams.”This ties closely to #1 above. Often we have a brilliant product or service – or so we think, only to realize that we really have no idea what the customer wants, or worse if he/she even wants it at all. I’ve seen shops open and then watch the owner stand on the sidewalk asking, “Where are the people?”The problem with this approach is two-fold. First, you must do the research to find where your customer is, to learn what does the customer really wants. Second, you need to market to them. In other words, you need to let them know you have what they want.Yes, you can build it. But the myth is that without a plan to reach your customer, they’ll more than likely never know you exist.
- I’m not in it to make a lot of money
This is such a self-defeating sentiment and yet so many business people say it as though it’s a example of their fine character and integrity.Why would you start a business and not want to make money? Why would you put a limit on your potential? After all, if you make money, you’ll then be able to do even more wonderful projects for others. Starting a business and proudly saying, “I don’t even take a paycheck” is an oxymoron. We usually start a business to make a living. But to continue a business, we also need to make a profit. The profit is how we are able to grow our business. I may decide on an income level and that I don’t want to do the work required to grow, but be honest with yourself about how you define “a lot of money.” Is this just a cop-out to avoid tackling some of the more challenging issues in building and growing a business? Is “I don’t need to make a lot of money” an excuse that we repeat to ourselves and others to avoid facing the reality of our business situation?In the corporate world, a similar response would be to stay in a job you hate for the ‘benefits’ you will get twenty years from now. Remember, whether you work for someone else or for yourself, your trading your time (which is finite) for money. Make it worth the effort. Get rid of this self-defeating sentiment and start ‘working a plan.’ Don’t waste time. Use it wisely!
- No business makes money in the first year
This is a devastating myth.Often it is spoken as a justification for not making money. In reality, the business person should be looking closely at the business plan and trying to figure out what it and is not working. If we start a business with this as part of our belief system, it becomes a rationalization for any challenges we face.Most certainly the first years of a new business may be difficult. But repeating this myth as though it is an absolute is another self-defeating myth. Your initial income from your business may be slim-pickin’s, but that’s no reason to accept this as a truth. Instead, long before the first year is complete, you should be appraising the financial status of your business and tweaking it.
- If I just get enough start-up money, my business will work.
Start-up capital definitely helps, but it does NOT guarantee success.Many small businesses mushroomed to big ones because they had a brilliant idea and found a way to get the product/service to the ideal customer! Some did it on a shoestring or a ‘lick and a promise’ as my generation used to say! Some really great business ideas were well-funded and faded away because money is only one part of the equation. You can burn through money quickly if you don’t have a solid plan.Don’t misunderstand me here. Start-up capital helps. But often, we are lazy and slow at tweaking things if we aren’t a wee bit hungry. We also tend to put too much into the overhead (our office, equipment, staff, etc) when we have a good amount of start-up capital. If we have to adapt quickly, this overhead can then become a burden.Believing that just a little more money would have saved my business is rarely the total truth. If I hear a failed business say that, I always ask, “What did you learn from this failure?” If it’s still about the money, then they didn’t learn. If they talk to me about the need to learn management skills, how to keep things simple as they’re growing, or learning more about marketing, this business owner is being more honest and, I believe, the failure was not necessarily all bad. This was a challenge and, quite often, this type of business owner will return and be successful because they’re learning from their mistakes. It’s never only about the money!
- Everyone is my target market
To believe this is a huge waste of time and resources.At some point you may have a large and diverse target market. But starting up, you must focus on a smaller market. Why? Focusing on a market will target your energy and marketing dollars which should bring you a better return on that investment.Trying to spend advertising dollars to reach ‘everyone’ ends up reaching ‘no one in particular.’The beginning business owner believes everyone would benefit from their product/service. But this is never true. We all wear shoes, but we don’t shop at the same stores nor do we all wear the same styles.By focusing on the ideal customer, your potential for success improves. It also makes it easier to then add another market as you grow or to reassess and re-work your definition of the ideal customer. When you believe ‘everyone’ is your market, it’s like getting the word out using a shotgun approach rather than a laser-sharp target.
- Shiny Object Syndrome
This is not exactly a myth but it’s a devastating activity.When starting a business, everyone has an opinion of what you should do. You’ll hear about products you just have to have. You’ll go to seminars that will tell you that you simply must use this or that social media platform. You’ll see products that are certain to make your life easier. And on it goes…None of us are immune to this Shiny Object Syndrome!The reality is that usually this syndrome is appealing because we think it’s the ‘latest, greatest, must-have, product or service that will save us tons of time and money in the end!It’s great marketing! But it’s addictive. Soon you’re so busy spending money and time on the latest product or service that you’re not focusing on your business.One way to look at these objects is that if it’s really going to work, it will work later when you ready to spend the time and money. If it’s not there later, it most definitely was a “Shiny Object” that merely would have used your resources and returned nothing but frustration. Beware this Shiny Object Syndrome and instead, focus and remain steadfast to your goals. Take time to reassess periodically but there’s no need to zig-zag through a maze of shiny objects that continually take you off track.
I’ve given you seven concepts that you may want to rethink. Give yourself a reality check and then get started. Remember, it’s not about trying, failing, trying again and success. It’s about trying, failing, learning, doing it differently, to success! Best to you!