Q: I'm a single father with two kids going through a divorce, and I recently lost my job. I decided to work for myself, so I started a homebased medical billing service. I have all the tools I need, but the hardest part of this experience has been ignoring the negative comments and questions that come my way from family and friends. I press on, but it gets tiresome. Now I avoid people as much as possible just to avoid the negative vibes. I'm doing everything I can to stay focused. I really want to surround myself with business-minded people. What do you suggest?
A: I commend you for asking for help and for pushing forward despite the well-meaning but negative people in your life. You notice I said "well-meaning." That's a place for you to start. Recognize that the people giving you grief are well-intentioned, although not helpful. They're trying to do one of two things: either dissuade you from doing something they fear will be harmful to you and your children; or protect themselves, because if you succeed, they'll have to look harder at why they're stuck in jobs they don't like. It's easier for some people to tear you down than to feel envy or shame because they haven't pulled off something similar.
They may also be afraid of losing you. If you become successful, will you still want to hang out with the same friends and family? They're probably afraid the answer is no even if they wouldn't tell you that.
These are possible explanations for why people are piling on the negativity. Instead of being angry with them, feel sorry for them. Recognize they aren't speaking the truth, only their perception of the truth, and be grateful you aren't stuck with their limited vision of the world. Comfort yourself by visualizing how it will feel when they're eating their words and apologizing to you for not believing in you while you're taking them to lunch because your business is prospering.
You're on the right track by searching for business professionals with whom to connect. Start with your local chamber of commerce or look for business networking groups and support groups for small and homebased businesses and work-at-home professionals. Join a medical billing association. Find one or two business owners like yourself who are just starting out and create a buddy system, checking in daily or weekly with one another and giving each other encouragement. (Choose people who aren't competing directly with you). Join a local chapter of Toastmasters-a public speaking group-which will help boost your self-confidence and help you meet lots of positive folks. Find Internet chat groups for medical billing and homebased entrepreneurs. My book, Starting from No: Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business also offers additional assistance on repelling negativity.
If you can handle the stress of being a single father raising two kids, you can triumph over this difficulty as well. Be a great role model for your kids and show them they, too, can withstand childhood taunting as long as they believe in themselves and don't give up.
Don't forget-it's not unusual for it to take a year or two to become profitable in a new business. So if others start getting on your case for not making big bucks in three months, don't sweat it. They don't understand what it really takes to make a new homebased business work.
Azriela Jaffe is the founder of Anchored Dreams and author of several books, including Honey, I Want to Start my Own Business: A Planning Guide for Couplesand Starting from No: Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.