Starting a business when it’s hard to start a business

I was recently contacted by a friend of mine who is interested in starting a business. She is dabbling in the business now — on a VERY part time basis — and wants to get serious. So we talked about what that looked like and how to get there.

She described for me what her aspiration was and then she shared her frustration at having made a few attempts at starting a business but struggling to even get off of “Step 1”.

After a long conversation, I realized that there were two things holding her back. I shared both of these things with her and I hope that she took them to heart… but time will tell.

SOME CHALLENGES ARE EXTERNAL

When you’re starting a business, there are many things you need to know before you start. (Some businesses you can start with very little capital and preliminary work but other businesses require a bit more). The more complicated and regulated your target industry is, the more work is needed to start.

My friend who wanted to start her business is starting it up in a relatively regulated industry and she was running into roadblocks left and right. Unfortunately, these roadblocks were deflating her confidence in her ability to move forward.

I gave her a few ideas about how to overcome this part of the problem of starting a business. I’m sharing those same ideas here with you because I think they’re good for everyone:

  1. Before you start the business, become an expert on the business! List all of your questions and actively seek out the answers. Expect to list even more questions as you go but work hard to answer each and every question.
  2. Talk to successful entrepreneurs in the same industry. This isn’t always easy to do because some people who will become direct competitors won’t want to help you but if you move out of your immediate area of business, you’ll find more people who are willing to help. Interview them. Shadow them. Volunteer to help them.
  3. Many industries have at least one governing body/advocacy organization/association — something that acts as a clearinghouse of information. Regulated industries often have more than one place. Take the time to get to know this organization and mine their resource library.

There will be plenty of external challenges as you start a business and most of them can be overcome with education. Heck, even the external challenges that SEEM like they can’t be overcome with education can still be overcome with education! In my friend’s case, she was having trouble raising money to buy some of the start-up equipment. In this case she needs to get educated about how to raise capital, borrow money, understand finances, find investors, etc.

SOME CHALLENGES ARE INTERNAL

As I talked with my friend about her business goals and what she had done so far to work toward achieving those goals, it became apparent that there were several times she started working on some aspect of her business and then suddenly stopped because of a perceived obstacle. However, her description of each obstacle indicated that it was usually a very minor point that could be overcome with some education, creativity, or tenacity. She listed obstacle after obstacle and I kept pointing out ways that they could be overcome. (Granted, it’s probably a lot easier for me to see the solution, since I’m slightly removed from the problem and I’ve overcome some of those same issues in my own business already). Frankly, I think she was just overwhelmed by many small perceived obstacles so that collectively they sounded big… it’s so easy for that to happen!

For those internal challenges, I think education can overcome it a bit but I really think it’s important to talk it out with other people. You might not always find solutions to the challenges you face (and I didn’t solve every problem that my friend faced!) but another perspective can sure help when things seem insurmountable.

There are many obstacles to starting and growing a business. That’s just the way it is. (Hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it, right?). But obstacles don’t necessarily make it impossible to succeed. You just have to push harder and find a way.

As my conversation wrapped up with my friend, I told her that either she would find a way to make her business goal goal come true or she would have to admit that it wasn’t that important to her at all. That’s a harsh truth but it is the truth nonetheless.

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