Written by Greg Go of WiseBread.
A lot of people have a Great Idea. It might be a new invention or a local service business. Unfortunately for consumers, many would be entrepreneurs are waiting for “the right time” to start their Real Business. They have plenty of reasons (excuses) for the delays. From lack of time to lack of experience, our minds have creative ways of rationalizing our fears.
Here are 7 common excuses for not starting a Real Business, along with strategies for overcoming internal fear, uncertainty and doubt (“Internal FUD”).
How Internal FUD kills Great Ideas
1. I’m too busy right now. I’ll start when I have more time.
This is the most sinister of the excuses because it is completely true. You would do more for your business if you had all the time in the world. But really, are you ever going to get less busy?
Starting a new business involves risk, time and effort. As you pick up more dependents and/or expenses over time, your ability to take the risk necessary for launching a business disappears. Many would-be entrepreneurs wait far too long for a perfect moment that never comes.
Today is as perfect as it gets. Even if you only do one small thing a day (or week or month), it’s better than always waiting for tomorrow. Don’t put off your dream until you are “less busy”. It’s never going to happen.
2. After I get an MBA, I’ll be ready to start up.
Some people think they need an MBA before they can make their Great Idea happen. That is false. An MBA doesn’t guarantee success. And an MBA is not a requirement for starting a business.
At the end of the day, you’re trading a service or product for some money. If you can build/provide this product/service, and you can convince people to pay money for it, you have a business. MBA, bachelor’s or even high school degrees be damned.
3. I hate sales.
If you really hate trading a product/service for money (the definition of a “sale”), then I don’t know what to tell you. There’s no business without sales.
However, I’ll bet you don’t really hate sales. You hate used car salesmen and cold callers. The good news is that 99.9 percent of business transactions are completely unlike the pushy sales pitch. Businesses that offer actual value don’t have to work very hard to make sales. If you’re making a product or providing a service that people want and it’s priced fairly, then both you and your customers are happier because of the sale.
Dismiss this myth — you don’t hate sales. Do you love talking about your great idea? Sales is just telling people about the awesomeness of your product/service.
4. I’ll do some research after South Park.
You know the really successful entrepreneurs enjoy their work much more than traditional leisure activities like watching TV/movies. And you probably already feel guilty about watching TV instead of doing more market research. I won’t lecture you about dedication and commitment and priorities. You already know that stuff.
Instead I’ll tell you how I got out of my entrepreneurial funk. Whenever I was watching more TV than working on my Great Idea, it was because I was stuck. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mind was avoiding making a tough decision or working through a particularly hard problem. My Internal FUD pushed me towards easier tasks. Watching TV was a whole lot easier than spending a couple hours researching, thinking about, and making the tough call. I overcame this self-imposed obstacle by giving myself a “State of the Great Idea” report.
Rediscover your motivation by scheduling 1 hour of “hard thinking time” to come up with concrete actionable tasks. Make a date with yourself to honestly evaluate your Great Idea. Stealing 10 minutes in the shower or during your commute is not good enough. You need the full hour (or more) to think through the critical problems and identify actionable tasks you can do next. Once you have some tasks to do, and have made some forward progress in turning your Great Idea into a Real Business, you will lose the craving to incessantly watch and discuss Cartman’s latest hijinks.
5. I don’t know anything about business.
Good news! Business administration is the easy part. The hard part is having a good product. There are plenty of resources (both off- and on-line) that will help you cross those business process bridges when you get to them.
Shatter this roadblock by realizing you don’t need to be a business guru to get started. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are among the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, and they didn’t know anything about business when they started.
To help you figure it out along the way, here are a few online resources to help your business get started:
Pore over articles at Entrepreneur.com and check out business books from the library. All the business know-how you need is freely available.
6. I don’t have startup capital.
Your business may legitimately need startup capital, but is your Internal FUD keeping you from looking for it? Not having the necessary capital right now is not a show stopper. There are lots of places to get startup capital.
A variation of this excuse is “I don’t want to take on partners/investors, so I need to save up the money myself.” This is Internal FUD using your greed against you. If you thought about it a bit, isn’t it better to own 50 percent of a Real Business now than 100 percent of a maybe future business that could or could not actually happen?
Don’t let Internal FUD keep you on the couch instead of raising that startup capital. Even if you wanted to retain full ownership, you have lots of financial options. Here’s a few creative ways to not take investors and overcome the money problem:
- cash out your savings
- get one or more low interest loans from friends and family
- small business credit cards
- live like a poor college student — lower your personal expenses
- do it yourself
- get a line of credit from your company’s bank
- get a loan from the Feds (basic requirements for getting a SBA loan)
Here’s a chart with more funding options and the pros and cons of each.
7. Before doing anything else, I need to write a business plan.
A business plan is important to keep you on task. Once you’ve opened your doors, you won’t have time to think big picture amidst the day-to-day fires of running a business.
Having said that, you don’t really need a business plan before getting started. Writing a beautiful 100-page plan doesn’t make you a single penny. Making a product, closing that first sale… those are the truly critical things to being a Real Business.
What you need is a stripped down, practical, internal business plan just for yourself. Just answer the following questions (and write down your answers!), and you’ll be well on your way to closing that first sale.
- What is your product or service?
- Who are your customers?
- There are probably many potential types of customers that are interested in your product. Who are the ones that will particularly love your product/service? How many of them are there?
- Who else is doing what you’re doing?Who are your competitors and potential competitors? Why is your product/service better?
- When will things get done?
- Given the specific customers you describe above, how do you plan on getting them? Will you buy ads, encourage referrals from existing customers, create a website?
- In the next 3, 6, 12 months, what are specific milestones you want to accomplish? What does your company look like in 2, 3 or 5 years?
- What are the next steps you need accomplish this month?
- How much money will it take to start and how much will you earn?
- How much money will it cost to make your product or provide your service?
- How much do you have to charge to earn a profit?
- Using this spreadsheet, plan your startup’s first year expenses and income. What month will you break even?
The next step to becoming a Real Business is easy.
At the end of the day, you only need to keep two things in mind:
- Most of these excuses aren’t real obstacles. As soon as you recognize that’s it just Internal FUD, you can pinpoint the real problem and get busy solving it.
- It’s not that hard. All you need to turn your Great Idea into a Real Business is to do the next action step… then another one, and so on. You don’t need to do them all at once nor do you have to know what all the steps are ahead of time. Just take the next step. It’s easy.
Recognize that there is nothing but bogus Internal FUD stopping you from turning your Great Idea into a Real Business. Good luck! I know you can do it.
If you’ve overcome your own Internal FUD, share your success stories in the comments.
Greg Go helps publish Wise Bread, a leading personal finance blog.