Before we get to the crux of this article, please know that we are not trying to put you talk you out of starting a business. Setting up on your own business could be the greatest thing you do this year. More than this, you may well experience success. There are plenty of articles online that will point you in the right direction. But a word of caution: don’t expect an easy ride.
Running a business is not all fun and games. It’s not a get rich quick scheme, nor is it for the lazy. It’s tough work. Some of the time anyway. If you are in business already, you already know this.
But if you are looking to start a business, there are some uncomfortable truths you need to consider. Don’t allow these things to cause you to change your mind. They can be overcome, but patience and diligence are key.
Here are the uncomfortable truths about running a business today.
Statistically, You Might Fail
According to reports, only half of the new businesses remain open after five years of service. Others tend to fall off at the ten-year mark. Chances are, your business will end up with a ‘closed’ sign on the door. Scary? Yes, of course, it is. And it’s enough to make you change your mind about starting up a business in the first place.
On the other hand, as we discussed in a previous article, it is possible to defy the odds. You can put into place a strategy to keep your doors open. Planning, wise management of finances and a decent marketing campaign are key. You don’t have to be a statistic, so don’t dismay. Besides, you could go for the glass half full approach. Fifty percent of new businesses do make it after five years, so at least survivability is possible. Right?
Your Business Isn’t Special
Does that sound unfair? It does a little, but we aren’t trying to be unkind. What we are saying is this: your business is just one of a number of businesses offering a similar service or product to others. Unless you genuinely have a unique proposition for your potential customers, this is one pill you are going to have to swallow.
That doesn’t mean you are exactly the same as others. You can set yourself apart from the crowd. Make a better quality product. Enhance your customer service. Brande yourself to ‘appear different’. Even then, there will (in all likelihood) be other businesses doing exactly the same thing as you.
You are in competition with others, from the smaller businesses online and on the high street to the big players, the large-chain supermarkets and online behemoths such as Amazon. It’s a fight for survival. It is possible to gain a foothold. But never assume your business is significantly different from any others out there.
You Will Face Attacks
No, we aren’t talking about your competitors here. Notwithstanding, they will attack you with sharper marketing campaigns and pricing strategies in an attempt to thwart your efforts. But rather, we are talking about cyber criminals, those malevolent people who target small and large businesses alike. So, don’t assume you are safe. Especially when starting out, you may find yourself at a larger risk of an attack, as your defenses may be significantly weaker than more experienced businesses.
Hackers may try to gain access to blackmail you, drain you of your finances, and steal your customer’s sensitive information. You will have heard such stories in the media, so they may have prompted you to focus on cybersecurity in business already. You can use the linked article for tips, giving you a guide into building up your defenses. A cyber attack could cripple your business for good, so be alert and stay up to date with the latest threats. As bigger businesses such as Facebook and Apple have discovered, you are never as safe as you think you are.
You Will Feel Like A Failure
No matter how talented and wonderful you are, you are not superhuman. And the sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you get used to making mistakes or not being as good as you thought. There will be days when you might make a bad business decision, such as investing in useless technology or wasting money marketing to the wrong demographic. You will have days when you regret starting a business in the first place. This usually happens when you discover the responsibilities you have on your shoulders.
Burning the candle at both ends, you will sometimes consider giving up, such as your level of tiredness. Your customers will complain to you, your rivals will outsmart you, and you will rebuke yourself for any blunders you make. But know this: you don’t have to be perfect. There will be bad days, but you can bounce back from them.
Remember why you started your business in the first place, and let that be your motivation during those tough moments. Outsource or delegate those tasks at which you are weakest. Surround yourself with positive people to lift your spirits. Seek advice from other business owners to guide you through the tough times.
Your Reputation Is On The Line
By taking a risk and stepping out into the world of business, you are putting yourself in the line of fire of the world at large. You will no longer be anonymous, as people will develop an opinion of you and your business. While you can secure a positive reputation – being kind to loyal customers, showing your philanthropic side through charity, selling a product that is sealed with quality – you can also face a negative backlash.
Disrespect a customer in any way, and you will suffer from bad word-of-mouth. Write something dumb on social media, and you may suddenly become viral. If your product proves unsafe, you can expect the media at large to hear about it. Your personal and professional life will become blurred.
What you do in one aspect of your life will impact on the other. So, stay on the right side of your customers as much as possible. Tame your tongue (and your fingers on your computer keyboard) when communicating your thoughts and opinions. And don’t get involved in any shady practices. But if you do make a mistake, and if you do engage your customers, clients, or the media, then be sure to make amends as soon as possible. You can get rid of your bad reputation, but you will still have to ride the waves of disapproval for a time.
There Is No Overnight Success
As we mentioned earlier, running a business is not for the lazy. You need to work at your business, and no matter your aspirations, you won’t be an overnight wonder. In fact, you may not see any success at all for the first couple of years or so, as you will be too busy trying to stay afloat as you learn the ropes. No matter how wonderful you think your business idea is, it does take a long time for people to buy into what you are doing, literally and metaphorically.
You won’t get rich quick, it will take time to build up sales, and growth will be slow. And that is the way of many a business. But remember the people who have gone before you. Everybody needs to start somewhere, and for those who do survive into the long-term, fame, fortune, and success are possible.
Just look at Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg as examples of those who started small and became a success through hard work and diligence. So, curb any false expectations you have, be prepared to work hard, and get ready for challenges ahead. You may find success, but it might not come as soon as you like.
And so we reach the end of our article, and your nerves are probably frayed. Running a business is tough, and we hope we have outlined why. However, there are the rewards. You will have independence away from the 9 to 5 treadmill. There will be the opportunity to make a positive difference through being a decision maker. You can do something you are passionate about.
And even if you fail, by starting a business, you have done something many people are afraid to do, so there is still something to be proud of. Still, let’s push aside that ‘F’ word, as you can be optimistic. You may very well succeed. However, you will never know until you finally open the doors into the world of business. We wish you every success!