Feature | Starting business

Five Keys To Starting Your Own Business – Key #1

Starting your own business is an exciting, busy and sometimes frustrating time. Most people think about starting their own business for a long time before actually taking the plunge and doing anything about it.

If you’re at the “thinking” stage and ready to move into “doing”, then these five keys to starting your own business, avoiding common start-up mistakes will set you off on the right path.

Key #1 – Get Over The Fear

The big mistake that keeps you in a job you hate, or if that’s too strong a word, keeps you in a job you’re not happy in, is fear.

For you that might be fears around money – worrying that you won’t be able to afford to pay the mortgage, school fees or put dinner on the table.

Or, it might be that you fear that you might fail – even though you’ve had a successful career, you might worry that you don’t have the skills or ability to make it in your own business.

You might even fear that you’ll be too successful! You might worry that you’ll end up having even less time than you do in your corporate job and have to work evenings and weekends to keep your business running.

Whatever your own situation, the key to getting over the fear is to work out what’s really stopping you. You need to spend some time thinking about why you’re putting up with a job or a situation that’s making you unhappy, rather than taking the steps you need to make a change.

A simple way to do this is to make a list of all the reasons why you haven’t made a change. What are you worried about. You’ll find that most of your fears/excuses, can be addressed once you’ve worked out what they are.

Tim Ferris author of The 4-hr Work week suggests another great activity for getting over your fear.  What you do is, imagine the absolute worst thing that could happen if you pursued your dream. Would it cause permanent damage? What steps would you take to get things back on track? Chances are you could turn things around right?

Now imagine the more probable scenario – what is more likely to happen? I bet it’s likely that you could produce a moderate outcome rather than the worst-case scenario.

You also need to take stock of where you are today. What is your financial situation, what are your strengths, what skills do have and where do you have gaps?   Be realistic and factual here. It’s like doing a personal audit.

If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you find a good Financial Adviser and talk to them about options.  One of the experts featured in my 60 Days to Startup Bootcamp, Kate McCallum, a Director with Multiforte shared three steps to take to help us get clear about our financial requirements:

  1. Work out how our expenses; how much we need to live on each month – include fixed items such as mortgage, fees, car repayments and variable such as spending money for lifestyle items.
  2. Work out how much income we expect our business to generate and by when – Kate suggested best case, worst case and likely case scenario are worth considering.
  3. Work out the gap between expenses and income.  Once we know our expenses from step 1 and our income from step 2, we have a clearer picture about how much we need in reserve.

A word of warning here. You might decide that you do have what it takes to start your own business, but unless you have the finances to live for at least 6 months without any income. Then don’t quit just yet!

You will most likely need to make some decisions – you often can’t have it all. You might need to make some trade-offs. Only you can decide whether you’re prepared to pay the price – whether that’s the price of staying in a situation you’re not happy in, or the price of making a change.

The most important thing is to spend time working this through.  Before you make the leap, you need to be comfortable with your decision because at times it will be tough going.

Common Mistake #1 – Fire, Aim, Ready

So, that leads us to the first common start-up mistake to avoid.

I call it the shoot first, ask questions later mistake.

One day, it all just gets too much and you make a rash decision and just quit your job, or maybe you don’t quite make it that far but you do tell your boss/colleagues, etc where to go.

The flip side of this mistake is not taking any action! I guess that would be Ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim and then you live a life of regret because you let fear hold you back.

I’m not here to tell you that being an entrepreneur is the path to joy and happiness for everyone. What I would like you to do is work out what’s right for you. You might decide that although you’d love to run your own business, it’s just not the right time or you don’t have all of your ducks lined up just yet. At least understand what action you need to take so that you’re making progress. If you decide that you are ready, then that will give you the confidence that you’ll need when the going gets tough.

By spending some time to understand your fears and to take stock of your current situation the first of the five keys will be yours.

If getting over fear is something that you need to do more work on, I suggest you take a look at Natalie Sisson’s Fearless Factor series over at The Suitcase Entrepreneur.

What fears hold you back from starting your own business or making changes in areas you’re not happy with?

What fears have you conquered and how?

In the next post on the Five Keys To Starting Your Own Business, I’ll be sharing Key #2Understanding Your Business.  If you have any questions about this post or anything to do with starting your own business, we can talk so that I can answer it for you.


*Editor’s Note: This post has been updated on August 2020 for accuracy.

  • Suellen Hughes
    Posted at 10:30h, 19 May Reply

    Great point about not allowing fear to be immobilizing. I see so many people putting up with situations they aren’t happy with – be it jobs, relationships, weight etc yet fear holds them back from making a change. At the end of the day, the reward has to be seen to be far greater than the risk they are fearing.

    Well done on conquering your own fears. Great tips for us too – especially the last one.

    Thanks for sharing
    To your best (long) life 🙂

  • Jen Brown
    Posted at 16:39h, 20 May Reply

    Great post Suellen & a topic close to my heart 😉

    I’ve been wanting to make the step to start my own personal training business for years. The fear of failure & of what others might say has always been what has held me back (and not just from starting my business but in other aspects of my life too).

    It’s taken me years to be able to (more) rationally assess the risks & understand what is the worst that could happen (as Tim F suggests). Some days are easier than others; some days the fears bubble up more than they do on other days. But as they say, life is a journey & so is starting a business.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series


    • Suellen Hughes
      Posted at 11:47h, 23 May Reply

      Thanks Jen.

      Pleased to hear that you got over the fear. As you say, it does continue to bubble up but as long as we know it will subside again, we can keep going right?


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