Damn, starting a business is hard! Even though I’ve been here before, it’s still like pulling teeth. Most of the time it feels like taking one step forwards and two steps backwards.
Running an existing business can also be hard work, but with a brand new business (or idea), there’s no momentum pulling you forward. It feels like swimming upstream.
In the thick of this now, I thought I’d take a moment to understand why starting a business is so hard.
As I see it, there are four main challenges to starting a business…
Challenge #1: Distractions
Have you ever decided to get started on something but delayed starting until you get your ‘ducks in a row‘? I know I have and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Unfortunately, the timing will never be perfect and you’ll never be on top of all those projects with loose ends. The photo books will still be waiting, your contacts list doesn’t really need cleaning out, once the kids get to the next stage, there’ll be that stage to deal with, and so it goes on. Be aware of this type of thinking as a just a distraction that can keep us from taking meaningful action towards actually starting.
The other category of distractions is more subtle because it feels like you’re making progress. It’s consuming content that is somewhat related to the business we’re trying to launch. It’s things like that “how to run a kick-arse webinar” course, the “learn to create a wick Facebook advertising campaign” pdf you just downloaded, or the article about “7 things entrepreneurs do every day”. Hang on, I don’t even have a product yet!
These “shiny objects” are pushed in front of us all the time but unless the content is something we’ve actively decided we need to learn about, we need to recognise that they’re really just distractions. Having faith that we can learn about those things at the right time later is something we should all practise.
Challenge #2: Uncertainty
Basically this comes down to; “I don’t know what to do!”.
Unfortunately there’s no playbook of the 37 exact steps you need to take to start business A. (Wouldn’t it be great if there was!) Every business is different and there’s many different paths to getting something up and running.
If you don’t have a plan for starting your business, it can get really messy. There are distractions to contend with and you’ll find yourself second-guessing what you should be working on. Take some time to figure out the steps you think you’ll need to take to start your business. You may want to speak to a business mentor or someone already operating in that space.
You can also use our New Business Launch Plan to help organise your thoughts. Once you have a plan, you’ll know what it is you should be focussed on each day.
Challenge #3: Road Blocks
Even with a great business launch plan in place, there are thousands of things that can, and will go wrong.
Perhaps you thought something would work and it doesn’t, or perhaps the first step is taking far longer than anticipated. These are the times when it feels like you’ll never get this business launched.
Starting (and running!) a business is all about finding and solving problems. Although it might seem like you’ll be fine once you solve the problem in front of you, unfortunately the problems never stop. The challenge is to figure out your way around each problem – determining which ones are important, considering alternative options to try, and deciding on a new course of action.
Challenge #4: Self-Doubts
Chances are, that when you decided to start a business, you felt great. Buzzing on the excitement and anticipation of it all, it’s easy to put in a few late nights and make some progress.
But then somewhere along the line, you lose confidence. For instance, here are some things that happened to me in the last week – each causing a lot of self-doubt…
- Although I’d previously researched my competition and thought I knew all the main players in the industry, I recently came across another one. This one is not as well known but looks amazing. In fact, I love everything they’re doing. Although their product has a different angle, when I see how advanced they are with their product, marketing, community, etc, it certainly makes me question starting a business in the same industry.
- I had a conversation with someone who asked me some questions that I know I should have a well-thought-out answer to; “who’s your target market?”, “what will your pricing be?”, “what platform are you going to build this in?”. Who am I to think I can start a business without knowing the answers to some basic questions like these?
- I was working with a highly skilled professional in an area outside of my expertise… but I realised I wasn’t happy with the work they had done. Am I right to think I have better judgement in this area than they do or should I defer to their experience and better judgement? Who knows but I’m going back to the drawing board to start it again.
No wonder so many people never actually get to launch their businesses.
Starting a Business is all about overcoming Inertia
There are a lot of forces working against you starting a business. Sir Issac Newton’s first two laws of physics state that:
1. An object at rest tends to stay at rest.
2. An object in motion tends to stay in motion.
Your new business is “at rest” and needs a huge external force – i.e. your effort – to get it into motion. In practice, this includes things like changing your daily life patterns so that you have time to work on your business. Even if you operate in a vacuum, this is hard to do as none of us really like change too much! But also, your friends and family may not like this as it’s different and disturbs the existing rhythms that you’ve all been working and living around.
Getting momentum in a new business is the next step. Once you have made some progress, there are other forces that start pulling your business forward. It doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it also doesn’t feel like everything’s working against you either.
In our next article, we’ll look at some ways to create that momentum earlier. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, let your friends and family know why it is that starting a new business is so hard!
Christine Conway says
#1 difficulty – distractions! So many things to do when you are in a full-time job, have a home life that depends on you and then you add in starting a business. I’m trying to overcome this by scheduling all of my time out so I can be fair to all three corners.
Yes, distractions are constant, insidious and will stop you making any progress! Good idea about the scheduling time. I’d add to that to know exactly what you’re going to work on when you do sit down to work. What sort of business are you starting?
Yep, spot on with all of the above! It feels like the story of my life for the last few years. You do the drawings!? nice
Yes, you can probably tell I’m talking from experience! And yes, I do the drawings… badly… in Powerpoint!
Great article Fiona. It’s very refreshing to hear someone who has accomplished so much still has to overcome similar challenges to the ones facing those of us who are yet to achieve this success. Look forward to reading the next article.
Believe me, it’s still hard! I think we’re always trying to stretch ourselves – so if it isn’t hard, it probably isn’t enough of a challenge!
James R Wolski says
I am a 69yo MD Radiologist. I brainstormed a healthcare app idea 7 years ago when my last son was born. I thought 1-2 years until launch and then part time as a Radiologist. Thousands of hours of nonstop work and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, I am finally ready to launch a pilot study at my hospital early next year. Your article is a life saver, validating a process that I did not anticipate to be so difficult, more difficult than entry to medical school. My journey started as a path to the financial well being for my wonderful family, but has transformed to a mission of improving patient outcome at lower cost through technology. It is truly amazing how a logical obvious solution can be disregarded by so many simply because it hasn’t been done before. I hope all of that is about to change. Thank you for the helping hand, I really needed it right now.