RoadBlock Busters

Roadblock: Fear Of Failure

Small businesses fail; what makes you think yours will be different? If you've done your planning, you'll be able to answer that question quickly and with certainty.

A thorough, well-thought-out business plan goes a long way toward building your confidence, says Susan K. Urbach, regional director of the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center in Oklahoma City. When you consider the elements of your operation and how they should function alone and together, you'll be starting on a more solid foundation. Part of this process means taking advantage of the variety of resources available to start-ups, such as the various SBA programs, entrepreneurship programs offered through colleges and universities, and local and state economic development opportunities.

"The most powerful tool for me has been educating myself on how businesses grow, what the life cycle of an entrepreneurial venture is, how to go out and access new types of capital and how to find free resources or people who are willing to work with you for little or no money," says David Gorman, 30, executive director and partner at SwimJim Inc., a children's swimming school and pool management company in New York City. Gorman freely admits he isn't a classic risk-taker. "I'm cautious, and being able to understand how things work has made me feel more capable, more confident that I'll succeed."

Never confuse confidence with blind optimism, though. "You need to be concerned about what you're going to do if [your business] doesn't work, especially if you are your only support," suggests Sara A. Boggs, 51, founder and president of Professional Software Consulting Inc. in Altamonte Springs, Florida. She advises coming up with worst-case scenarios and figuring out how you'll deal with them while you're still in the planning stages. "I knew there were companies I could work for as an employee if my business failed."

You may also be dealing with negative attitudes from friends and family. Consider what might be motivating them. In Boggs' case, her immediate supervisor didn't want her to leave, so he told her he didn't think she could make it on her own. "But when his boss found out what I was planning, he was very encouraging," she recalls.

Others may be giving you input based on their own insecurities. "Always look at who's telling you what," says Urbach. "If the person has been very successful in business, listen to them. But if they live from paycheck to paycheck just doing a job, put their opinion in context."

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This article was originally published in the May 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: RoadBlock Busters.

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