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How business owners can gain the required confidence to start their own business



Expert | Leadership

By Andrew Laurie

Successful businesses rely on competent and confident owners, but building the confidence to start a business is a complex process. It consists of both the emotional readiness to commit to starting a business and the steps that must be taken to get a business off the ground.

The biggest inhibitor most people encounter when considering whether to start a business is that they start with a vague and nebulous idea of what that business would actually entail. This can make the idea of starting a business seem incredibly daunting, if not impossible, even if the person is absolutely qualified to start their own business.

On the flip side, some people dive right into their own business without ever really considering what that means. It’s therefore important to find a balance between having misplaced confidence and being underconfident.

And, while the concept of starting one’s own business can seem exciting and interesting as well as challenging and risky, continuing to frame the question vaguely and without specifics will reduce the business owner’s chance of success.

Once a business owner has decided that starting a business is, in fact, something they want to do, they must get specific as quickly as possible. They must move away from the ill-defined concept of ‘a business’ or ‘being one’s own boss’ and narrow down exactly what that looks like for their situation.

This means the potential business owner should ask themselves four key questions:
1. Why would starting a business be a good idea?
2. What should the business deliver to the owner in terms of a lifestyle, an income, an opportunity, or some other benefit?
3. What might that business look like once it’s up and running?
4. What about that picture is exciting or motivating?

Once the potential business owner has considered these questions, the answers may provide the right motivation to get started. However, not everyone should start their own business, so this only becomes a motivator for whom it’s appropriate.

With the motivation to start a own business as well as clarity around what the business should look like and what benefits it should deliver, the potential business owner can then move on to ask questions about what they need to achieve to reach a point where they are confident enough to do it.

The questioning phase serves two purposes. It makes potential business owners more aware and realistic about what’s involved when building a business. It can also let them break down the overwhelming exercise of getting a business going into smaller, more manageable chunks. This lets owners start the planning process.

Starting with the ultimate end-goal, potential business owners should then work backwards, asking themselves what they need to do to reach each stage of their plan. This might mean starting with where they want the business to be in 10 years, then determining what they need to achieve for that to happen. By continuing to work backwards, the owner can develop a 10-year plan, a five-year plan, a 12-month plan, a 90-day plan, a one-week plan, and even a daily plan.

Breaking it down backwards means that each activity the business owner does will contribute to achieving their ultimate goal, avoiding the risk of becoming side-tracked or distracted. And, by breaking down the huge mission of starting a business into smaller sections, the owner can start to see that each of those tasks is not as scary and intimidating as it first appeared. And that, combined with the motivational benefit of the exciting picture of what the owner’s life and business could look like, will be more likely to bring about the confidence to do it.

Along the way, it’s beneficial to talk to others who have taken the leap to set up their own businesses, both successfully and unsuccessfully. Talking to these people lets potential owners get an idea of what their business might realistically look like, at least initially.

While it can be useful to gather cautionary tales to avoid making the same mistakes as others, it’s also crucial to talk to people who can offer valuable insight on how it’s done properly. Talking to any random business owner may reveal that they fell into it, evolved through it, and ended up somewhere by accident. These people will be unable to provide clarity or offer advice on a systematic approach.

On the other hand, talking to business owners who built their business with a coach, approaching it systematically by putting the right things in place in the right order, lets potential owners gain much more valuable knowledge about how to succeed in this process. For business owners looking to build confidence, this approach is far more reliable.

The final part of successful planning is considering the worst-case scenario and how to avoid it. For example, if the worst-case scenario is that the business isn’t making any money at the six-month mark, then the potential business owner can plan for this by ensuring they have enough savings to support them and their business for 12 months or longer. While some people prefer not to think negatively, considering and preparing for the worst-case scenario is one of the most positive things a business owner can do to protect themselves and be successful.

Starting a business is a huge task, so it’s essential to be specific about the plan. The specifics will lead to actions that lead to success. Therefore, it’s important to devote enough time to determining these specifics and envisioning everything entailed in being a business owner. Then, potential owners can be confident that they’re ready to get started.


Andrew Laurie is an entrepreneur, CEO and elite business coach.

If you enjoyed reading this, you will also enjoy The tell-tale signs of a successful business owner and Falling off a cliff: how to go from trainee to CEO by setting and achieving goals. 

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