Reasons Why We Do Not Start a Business

There is no shortage of excuses available, when it comes to the consideration of starting a new business. Many people have simply created mental roadblocks, and set self-imposed limits of their own potential. Most of us already know the answers to our hardest questions, yet we still seek validation to take that first step. The internal struggle is the real battle here, nothing else.

These are the results that I compiled, while gathering research data for my upcoming book about starting a business. I sent out inquiries, and received over 100 responses back. These people consist of current business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs. There was no specific industry requirement, no age or gender bias, nor revenue target. We received feedback from at least 5 different countries, as well. This effort was purely to collect the main reasons that people do not start their first business, and to identify the main drivers to starting a business. While I had their valuable attention, I sought to ask for lessons learned. What their challenges were, and what changes they would make if they were to start all over again.

The data below is expressed in a percentage, based on the number of responses received. I removed any single-digit responses, to provide more focus on the predominant replies.

1. What were the top 3 reasons that kept you from, or delayed you from starting a business?

  • 58%         Fear, self-doubt, lack of confidence
  • 56%         Lack of money or funding
  • 36%         Lack of knowledge, experience, or education
  • 33%         Already had comfortable salary / benefits career
  • 25%         Lack of time
  • 25%         Too many ideas, lack of focus
  • 18%         Negative influence from friends or family

No surprises here. The most popular answer that holds people back is simply fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of becoming successful. If anything, this shows you how important your mental mindset is. These people had to overcome these fears, and take that crucial first step. Fear isn't something tangible, you can't put your hands on it. It is purely a mental roadblock, which you will need to put in serious effort to improve upon. It is unfortunate that so many people are held back from their potential, simply by a lack of self-confidence. Confidence is purely a decision, it isn't a genetic characteristic. You simply have to decide to be confident, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. This is how you build real confidence, by trying it more often.

Lack of money was near the top, as expected. However, many of these business owners mentioned that the money thing was mostly a figment of their imagination, prior to getting started. Once they actually started the company, they realized how inexpensive it can be to actually start a business. Not every business requires huge funding, many could be started for a few hundred bucks. So, before you put money as a reason not to start, be sure to evaluate if the business you want actually requires a large investment. You may find it doesn't.

Feeling as if you do not have enough experience or knowledge was also similar to money. It was a perceived roadblock, but many entrepreneurs discovered that they were able to start and also learn along the way. The truth is, we never quit learning. Don't be afraid to jump, and learn as you go.

Rounding out the bottom of that list, is one topic that I address quite often with clients. The power of influence by their inner circle of friends and family. People love to keep relationships and attachments, even if those are deemed caustic. It is difficult for some people to let go, and they try to please everyone. If you are not being supported within your circle, it may be time to find a better circle. Spend less time with those who hold you back, and replace them with people that encourage you to improve.

2. What were your top 3 reasons to start a business?

  • 82%         Independence or flexibility
  • 73%         Increase of income
  • 35%         Gain a sense of personal accomplishment
  • 24%         Following passion, fun, or enjoyment
  • 20%         To help other people, or build legacy

Freedom! There was certainly a breakaway response within this pack of responses. While the potential increase in income was important to most, the idea of being in control of their own destiny was the most important reason to start a business. How many of these resonate with you?

3. If this is a side-hustle business, what reasons keep you from quitting your normal career?

  • 49%         Need for steady income or benefits
  • 20%         Enjoy their current career

The funny thing about this question, is that I did not specify any amount of responses. But, we ended up with basically two reasons that people would start a business on the side of their normal career. Several could not walk away from the stability their 9-5 offers, and a few even loved their current job. They just wanted to increase income, on the side.

4. Once your business was started, what were your 3 most difficult challenges about running the business?

  • 40%         Managing cash flow, financial and taxes
  • 31%         Lack of knowledge or time related to salesmanship or marketing
  • 29%         Managing partners, employees, or contractors
  • 20%         Time management
  • 16%         Managing growth or expansion
  • 11%         Work / Life balance

Did you know that a recent study from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 20% of all new businesses fail within their first year? And, 50% of those businesses fail within 5 years. The number one reason businesses fail is cash flow. Some data suggests as much as 80% of failed businesses are directly related to cash flow problems. Not pricing their goods or services properly, not generating enough revenue, not collecting on overdue invoices, screwing up payroll, improperly filing taxes. Money is the lifeblood of your company, and it is essential to manage it properly. You should make financials the #1 responsibility in your business, because you cannot operate without money. As a business consultant, I can't count how many times I've seen small businesses fail because they got behind on bills, and were just trying to drum up new business to pay for the old debts. It always leaves the last round of customers screwed, when they shutter the doors. Get ahead of that, be sure to keep enough cash on hand to operate your business, and flow that money through the process properly.

Marketing and Sales seems to be a really weak spot for new business owners. Pay extra attention to this! Just because you are a technical wizard, or have some awesome talent or knowledge in an area, it doesn't make you good at creating sales. That is Business 101, to create a transaction. Too many people jump into starting a business, but have no clue on how to market or advertise, and close the deal. There are numerous books, courses, and coaches out there that can help you with this. Do not take this lack of skill lightly!

5. Has your business has achieved your original goals? Choose one.

  • 47%         Have not met goals
  • 22%         Exceeded goals
  • 13%         Met goals

This result from the feedback shows us the hard truth. Not every company is successful, in the eyes of the owner. I know that it seems trendy for people to want to become entrepreneurs, but the reality is that there is still a lot of work required. Many times, we are buried under trivial tasks that we should be delegating or outsourcing, and cannot accomplish the priority tasks. There are many important aspects to running a business, and many times you feel like you are trying to coordinate chaos. We spend too much time trying to fix our personal weaknesses, rather than hire others who can compliment our strengths.

6. If you could do things all over again, what would you do differently?

  • 31%         Started sooner
  • 15%         Find coach, accountability partner, or mentor
  • 11%         Be more focused on one business, or the core business

I received numerous responses to this open-ended question, but these are the only three that got into double-digits of responses. Starting sooner was certainly the most common response, and this should help encourage others to take that first step. There is a Chinese proverb that I enjoy reading that goes like this: "The best time to plant a tree, was 20 years ago. The second best time is today." Those who responded wishing they had started sooner, no doubt feel this tree proverb in their mind. The second highest response was unexpected, simply asking others for help. Even though we hear successful people always suggesting to find a mentor or coach, it seems too many of us put this task aside. We allow our pride, ego, or anxiety, to hold us back from asking the advice of others who have done what you want to achieve. I've been guilty of this myself, and I've committed to asking more people for advice from now on. You see, even a business consultant and mentor still needs a mentor! Learning is not something that you have done, it is something you DO. Always. Never be afraid to ask for help, but just be respectful of other people's time. And, never hesitate to help others, when called upon.

I hope this data is useful for your mental processing, in determining where to start. I hope it shows you that the fears and thoughts you currently have are common, and that you aren't alone. Maybe this will help reduce the fear. I'll be capturing the main questions and responding to them in more detail within my book. This exercise was important, as I wanted to be sure that I can provide everyone with the best book possible. The book that confronts, and answers the hardest questions. I greatly appreciate all the participants taking the time to respond, and I hope you will find this data useful for your own business endeavors.


Quickly Evaluate Your Business Ideas

The most difficult question for an aspiring entrepreneur, is where to start. First, you need an idea for a product or service that you could earn income with. Even better, have several ideas to choose from. I always recommend that someone follow their passions, and start a company based on something that they love. Money follows passion. Many businesses fail because they were started for the wrong reasons, lack of management skills, distraction by something else that was more shiny, or losing the drive to put in the hard work. When you work within your passions, you are less likely to give up, and more likely to push towards success. Your passions can be identified with one simple question: If you could do one thing every day for the rest of your life, and get paid for it, what would that be?

Barring the wisecrack answers of “Semi-Pro Wine Drinker” or “TV Binge-Watching Expert”, you still have to be realistic with your definition of passions. Is the subject within your skill set, or knowledge capability? Not everyone can be an NFL starting quarterback, or create quantum physics theories. Some level of self-awareness is certainly required. You also have to come up with the idea to earn income from the idea, somehow.

With your business ideas fresh in your mind, now it is time to evaluate each of them individually. To do this, you should first come up with some short-term and long-term financial goals. I recommend 1 year, 5 year, and 10 year goals. Measurable, actual numbers are required here. You will need to define a specific goal that can be quantified and pursued. Saying “I want to be rich” is not a measurable goal. There is no value to measure against, and “rich” is a subjective description that is just based on perspective. A better example of a measurable goal would be “I want to earn $200,000 per year” or “I would like to have $5 million saved in 10 years.” Both of those are good specific goals, as there is a dollar value and a time value within each. This makes them measurable, and you will also know when you achieve those goals. I do not typically recommend just attainable, easy goals. I usually recommend aiming higher, as larger goals are more likely to motivate you, and keep you motivated. When people set goals too low, they get lazy and become content.

With your defined financial goal in mind, you can then reverse-engineer the yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily income required to achieve that goal. This exercise will also test the validity and likelihood of this business idea, to achieve the income level of your goal. Here is an example.

Let’s say you want to open a small store in your town, and your financial goal is to earn $200,000 salary per year. If you do some Google research on the type of store you are interested in, you can find the average Net Profit Margin for similar businesses. Net Profit Margin is the pure profit, after overhead costs are subtracted. Overheads are your building lease, utilities, cost of goods, advertising, reinvestment into the company, employee pay, services needed, and other associated costs needed to operate the company. Let’s assume your business idea usually has an average 10% Net Profit Margin. As a small business owner, that remaining net profit could be the same thing as your personal income.

To earn $200,000 income per year, at a 10% Net Profit Margin, you would need to have a sales revenue of $2,000,000 in products or services per year. For a small business owner, the simple formula is:

Income = Sales Revenue x Net Profit Margin

$200,000 = $2,000,000 x 10%

Now you must accept the potential harsh reality of your business idea. Does it seem possible to achieve the calculated sales revenue, to reach the financial goal of your income dream? If your business idea isn’t scalable, or your potential customer base isn’t large enough, or your competitors have too large of a market share already, it may be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the sales revenue that you need to achieve the income you want.

This quick check will tell you if the idea is a waste of your time, or if the idea needs to be refined to improve the potential. You’ll find that many of your ideas do not align with the financial goals you have, as this is quite common. Your choice is to relax those financial goals, or to think of some better ideas. Don’t waste a minute chasing an idea that will never potentially arrive at the goals you have set. Create, plan, and execute only the best ideas to potentially reach your goals, backed with that important passion aspect.

Now, get after it!

Managers vs. Leaders

Are you currently a manager, or do you aspire to become one? Do you consider yourself a leader? The reason there are two different questions, is because there could be two different answers. Most people believe a manager and leader are the same thing, but this statement is not accurate. Anyone who has worked within any company has seen proof of this. Within all companies, the role of manager is certainly an important one. The position is purely authoritative, intended to keep the employees following the process and rules. One could even argue that the leadership aspect of some of these manager roles is not always required.

Not all managers are leaders. "Manager" is just a job title. Conversely, not all leaders are managers. Some individuals lead from behind, regardless of their corporate rank. These people motivate and inspire everyone around them to perform at a higher level, by offering encouragement and leading by example. Leadership is a personality characteristic, not related to any specific title. It is something you have to decide to become, and practice to improve.

Within our corporate world, many people get promoted into management without having the leadership persona. Someone could be an ace at performing within a skilled support role, but that doesn't automatically make them leadership material. They may have mastered the intellectual IQ requirements for that technical role, but may have not developed the EQ (Emotional Quotient) to lead people. Some managers are just not interested in managing people, but will accept the promotion for the title, status, or salary increase. Once in that position, we find they under-perform compared to their previous roles. These managers still want to focus on the technical side of their role, and disregard their human resource requirements. Managers like this will cause your talented employees to look elsewhere. Most people quit their boss, not the company. When considering the promotion of someone, companies need to stop prioritizing tenure ahead of talent. People should never deserve a promotion, they should earn it. Great companies will be able to identify which individuals will flourish within specific roles.

Each of us has experienced good and bad managers. Fortunately, we can learn from both. The bad managers exhibit indecisiveness, negative attitudes, and poor business habits. These failures provide us with invaluable experience. If you take a look back along your career, your best managers will be easy to identify. These are the people you still retain contact with, even after years of having worked together. You still bounce ideas, ask advice from, and network with them. They likely have become friends with you. The main difference between the good and bad, is that the good managers actually cared about you and the rest of their team. This is what separates managers from leaders. Leaders care about the individuals on their team, and understand what uniquely motivates each person. Leaders never ask their reports to do things they would not do themselves, or haven't done themselves. Leaders are interested in the personal development of their team members, and do not avoid the career development plans or mentoring responsibilities. Leaders want each member on their team to succeed within their current role, as well as their future roles. Leaders do not hold down superstars.

Take this moment to evaluate yourself as a leader, with one simple question. Would your team follow you anywhere you go, or will they cheer the day they quit working for you? Hopefully the answer is a positive one. If not, hope is not lost. This is something you can improve upon. Start today.