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Getting over it: The mental and emotional barriers for entrepreneurs

Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

For any journey, the first step is the hardest. So how do you break through the barriers to get on your road to success?

Starting a business is easy. You can take care of the paperwork in a matter of hours.

Starting a business that lasts is a lot harder, even if you put all your time and money into it. And the all-in approach is a lot riskier since the more time and money you invest the more you put at risk.

That’s why many aspiring entrepreneurs hesitate to take the plunge.

So if you haven't yet taken the entrepreneurial plunge, how can you live your entrepreneurial dream, while minimising your risks and maximising your chances of success?

Man looking up at outside of a building

No Fear

First let’s talk about the fear of failure. When you try to achieve big things, some amount of failure is inevitable. Every successful entrepreneur has failed at some point, many a number of times – and for many those failures created the springboard for later success. But will the “worst” really happen?

Say you quit a full-time job and open a retail store. What is the worst possible outcome? Your business could fail, your savings could evaporate, and your family could be out on the streets. Possible? Sure, but not likely.

If your store struggles you will work hard to adapt your business model. If that doesn’t work, you’ll shut it down and get a job. Failing is something you and your family could overcome. Determine the more likely “worst” things that could happen and then create plans to deal with those possibilities.

Then spend a little time with a person who is very successful in some field or pursuit; it doesn’t matter what.  After a few minutes you’ll probably think, “Wait, this guy isn’t any smarter than me.”  After a few more minutes you may even think, “Hey, I might actually be smarter than him.”

Success doesn’t require a high IQ or a special intangible quality you don’t possess.  Successful people are only seen as “special” after they succeed. You are just as capable of achieving great things.

Then, and most importantly, start small. Start your business and keep your full-time job. Except in rare cases, keeping a full-time job is the best approach for first-time business owners. It's also the hardest approach since sacrifice, discipline, and a massive amount of hard work are required. But that's okay. If you aren't willing to work hard and sacrifice, your new business will fail whether you keep your full-time job or not.

To minimise risk and maximise your chances of success:

1. Live Well Below Your Means

Almost every business venture requires spending money before making money (and if money isn't required, time certainly is, and as the adage goes - time is money.) Some small businesses take years to turn a profit.

A huge percentage of start-ups fail because they run out of money, and even if you do not, chronic money problems can lead to making poor long-term decisions.

Never assume personal savings will see you through. Eliminate every bit of personal spending that isn't necessary. You can have a fancy meal when you’re successful.

2. Work Incredibly Hard At Your Full-time Job

When small business capital and cash flow are tight, losing your income is the last thing you can afford. So be a superstar. Work as hard and efficiently as possible. Get more done than anyone else you so you can leave on time, without raising concerns about your performance and dedication.

3. Set A Daunting Schedule

When your "normal" work day ends, your start-up workday begins. Decide how many hours you think you can spend on your start-up every week and add 25 per cent.

Then commit to that schedule. If your schedule says you will work from 5.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. every evening and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, work those hours.

See your start-up schedule the same way you see your schedule for your current job: non-negotiable.

4. Don’t Complain

Say you start a consulting business. Once you land a few clients, you'll be working every evening and most weekends. That's a good thing: landing clients means you're generating revenue.

You may have to get up early every day to take care of emails and calls before you head off to your full-time job. Don't whinge. Keep reminding yourself that having demanding clients is great, because it means you actually have clients. Happily pay the price — it's a price most other people won't pay.

5. Reinvest Your Earnings

At first you'll be tempted to reward yourself and spend your profits.

Don't. Reinvest every dollar you earn. Use profits to set up the business infrastructure you need (not the one you want, but the one you need.) Buy supplies. Advertise. Or save cash to tide you through downswings.  See profits as a tool to further establish your business.

6. Keep Your Full-Time Job Longer Than You Want

Deciding when to quit your job and go into business full-time is the hardest decision you will make. It's impossible to make an objective decision when you're sick of your full-time job, sick of your boss, or when you just want your life back. But don't quit too soon. When in doubt, hold out. Always focus on numbers, not emotions.

Your financials—personal and business—will tell you when it's finally time to quit your job.

Telstra has provided you with access to a range of articles and information which may be of interest to you and your business. The content of our articles does not constitute the provision of financial or taxation advice, and we strongly encourage you to seek independent professional advice or consider for yourself if this information is appropriate for you and your circumstances.

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