Entrepreneurship requires a certain boldness. Deciding to go into business for yourself, to trust your own instincts, and forge your own path can put you on a path to great success or dismal failure, and the fear of the latter can be suffocating. How can we be sure it’s time to make the leap?
The golden age of business
Our modern world is the ideal time to start a new venture. Historically speaking, we live in an age of unparalleled opportunity. Access to technology and the Internet has revolutionised the business landscape, with reams of information and research tools at our fingertips, not to mention the ability to raise funds (such as via Kickstarter) and to do business on a worldwide level, selling your goods and services to customers in other countries.
Thanks to social platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook, keeping track of business contacts is simple, and with affordable website-building tools and pre-made selling platforms it’s easy to get started in a matter of hours. In fact, depending on the business, an entrepreneur in 2018 can sometimes get started with nothing more than a laptop and a stable Internet connection.
Cultural approaches to failure
Some countries attach great importance and shame to failure. In Japan, an individual involved in a big business flop is expected to issue a personal apology, after which they will subsequently struggle to be taken seriously again; Germans, too, are reportedly risk-averse, viewing expensive blunders as wasteful and reckless. The American approach, however, is to glamorise and celebrate failure as evidence of having tried something brave and noble, as embodied by a multitude of variations on quotations such as:
“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“Everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan
“Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” – Oprah Winfrey
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
Phrased differently, it’s better to think of new business beginnings as opportunities to do something bold and exciting than to only see the negative possibilities. You don’t have to consider it a disaster if things don’t work out the way you wanted – the successful are separated from the unsuccessful by their ability to use the failures as stepping stones and learning experiences. Taking the long view, even getting it wrong can get you closer to business success.
Numbers don’t lie
A 2017 report put together by the The Office of Advocacy and Small Business Data contains some encouraging statistics; nearly 80% of US small businesses started in 2015 made it into a second year of business, and the report adds that “half of all establishments survive five years or longer”. Speaking more broadly, worries about business hardships before you’ve even started are counterproductive – studies show that 85% of the general day-to-day things we worry about never come to fruition, and even then 79% of us find ourselves quite able to deal with the small subset of things that do actually go wrong.
Don’t assume it can’t be done
It’s important to have confidence in your business idea. TV programmes such as BBC’s Dragon’s Den have perhaps trained us to place more importance on unique, original concepts than we should. If you’re feeling unsure that your big idea is sufficiently fresh and powerful, the world is full of stories of people who took pre-existing or unremarkable ideas and found success by putting their own spin on them. For example, the aforementioned crowdfunding platform Kickstarter was founded a year after a similar website called IndieGoGo and has enjoyed enormous, multi-million dollar success; another well-known example is the German company Alando, who earned $43 million dollars in 1999 making a website that was functionally identical to eBay. Even in 2018, taking an existing idea to a new country is a viable strategy, as even the well-established services we take for granted haven’t extended their reach everywhere. Did you know that Amazon hasn’t yet expanded to Croatia?
Even for the giants of today’s commercial landscape, it’s worth remembering that McDonald’s didn’t invent hamburgers, Google didn’t invent search engines, and Starbucks didn’t invent coffee. Whatever your idea, don’t imagine that it’s not good enough to bring you success – the truth is that you simply won’t know until you try.
Get some help
It’s always daunting starting something new when your money and your reputation are on the line, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Whether you bring in friends to help you, or hire trained professionals to help with the parts you’re not sure about, having the right people on board can be a huge boost to your chances, and can take a load off your mind. Another option is mentoring, with a 2014 study by UPS suggesting that a startling 70% of businesses that receive advice from a mentor figure tend to survive for five years or more, “double the rate of those who do not receive mentoring.” Finding an experienced business expert to guide you through the process takes a lot of the risk out of your plan, and even if it doesn’t work out, you’re sure to learn invaluable insights you can apply to a future venture.
Another reason to act fearlessly is that some opportunities are time-sensitive. You may think you’ve spotted a gap in the market for your product or service, but how sure are you that that niche will remain unfilled in six months? A year’s time? Every day you hesitate to make a start is another day in which somebody else could beat you to it. Don’t let another entrepreneur spot the opportunity you thought of first.
Overall, entrepreneurship comes with high potential rewards, but with the unavoidable price tag of uncertainty. Learning to be comfortable with a certain level of risk comes with the territory of building your business and earning the success you deserve.
Author bio; Open A European Company.com founder Heather Landau has honed her skills in service advisory from the pragmatic to the practical. With 25 years’ experience in international marketing and business development, Heather is a leading voice on European business expansion, and operates similar services across Europe and North America.