So you want to start your own business: great! Entrepreneurship can be exciting, liberating and rewarding for the brave souls who pursue it.
It can also be stressful and scary as hell -- and often the biggest obstacle to entrepreneurial success lies between the ears of the person pursuing it. Business courses can cover invoicing or supply chains, but they leave entrepreneurs in the dark when it comes to overcoming the mental obstacles that hold us back.
Below are three of the most frustrating blocks new entrepreneurs can face, plus strategies to overcome them so you can get on with starting your business with minimal baggage.
1. Fear of Failure/"It Has to Be Perfect"
Nothing can paralyze a would-be entrepreneur faster than perfectionism -- the feeling that the first attempt hast to be spectacular and obscenely lucrative or else all is lost. Take the following steps to get over perfectionism and back to building a business.
• Think constructively: People who believe they're working toward an achievable goal are more likely to succeed than scared souls who fixate on avoiding a negative outcome. Instead of viewing a business plan as a means of dodging bankruptcy, for example, think of it as an opportunity to build new skills or network with inspiring people. This shifts the focus from what you stand to lose to what can be gained from starting a business.
• Reframe "failure": Many of us think of failure as an end point--i.e., if someone fails, then the jig is up. That's crap. In reality, every setback or mistake can serve as a learning opportunity that contributes toward the ultimate goal of building a successful business.
• Ask what's to be gained from things staying the same: Yes, starting a new enterprise can be daunting. But weigh that against the alternative: Will you be satisfied if, six months or a year from now, nothing about your work life has changed? If life isn't perfect now, then what's the harm in attempting something that might make it even better?
2. Low Self-Esteem/"I Don't Deserve to Succeed"
The inner critic loves to butt in when we leave our comfort zones: Who are you to think you could start a business? Don't you know the odds of getting a new company up and running are slim? There are way too many people who are already doing this work, and they're probably all better at it than you.
This voice is a normal consequence of going after something new -- but it only has the final word if you let it. Counteract negative thoughts with the following strategies.
• Develop a support system: Cheesy as it might sound, entrepreneurs need to be their own cheerleaders, and it helps to have the backing of supportive friends, family members, or work mentors. Don't have good friends? Find some via online forums or local community groups.
• Focus on providing value: Constantly beating yourself up can get in the way of productivity. Instead of obsessing over perceived shortcomings, concentrate on providing the best value for your customers. Prioritize serving others in ways that can make a difference in their lives, and there'll be less mental space for inner chatter.
• Beef up on skills: Lacking certain skills or knowledge required to run a business doesn't signal inadequacy; it identifies what's necessary to move forward. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, build confidence by signing up for certifications or courses that are relevant to your business goals.
• Recognize that you matter: It may sound granola, but it's also true: Nobody else can offer what you do. Believing this will allow you to create a business that projects confidence, offers unique value, and appeals to customers in an authentic way.
3. Overwhelm/"I Don't Know Where to Start"
First, the business needs a name. No, wait, business cards. No, a website! No, investors.
Panicked yet? There are a trillion things to consider when starting a business, and it's normal to feel paralyzed by not knowing where to start. Tackle overwhelm with the following steps.
• Start with the easy stuff: Daunting or unfamiliar tasks are motivation zappers. In the beginning, set them aside and start with what you know. This will build confidence for tackling more intimidating tasks down the road.
• Find a mentor (or several): If you don't already know inspiring entrepreneurs, try emailing or cold calling them. So long as you're respectful of their time and expertise, many folks are happy to share input and advice.
• Make a plan: Beat overwhelm by delineating specific objectives (such as creating a killer "about" page) and breaking them down into a step-by-step plan. Try writing S.M.A.R.T. goals: ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. Specifying actionable steps will help any project feel more manageable.
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It's normal to encounter any or all of the mental hurdles outlined above (and then some). The trick is to focus on staying centered, reducing stress, and implementing strategies that can help you move through fear to successful business development.