You know how they say good things come in threes? Well bad things do too. In this case, it’s “reasons people cook up in their heads for never having a go,” as my old mum used to say.
She reckoned that when you give something a go that you don’t know will work or not, do as much research beforehand to identify the best way to make it happen – the way that has the highest chance of success. And then just bloody do it.
It’s all about the bullshit stories we create in our heads which stop us from having a go and starting up. I’ve listened to excuses ranging from “cos I’m scared” through to three-act Greek tragedies that went on and on and still came down to the same thing.
It is perfectly natural to be scared of the unknown.
In fact, it’s a very useful survival trait. But it’s also a bit outdated. There are so many tools available now online that you can use to hit that scary monster called Fear over the head and turn it into a much more useful motivator. It never hurts to have some skin in the game. Skin that you might bruise or scrape or cut. I honestly don’t think its possible to start a business without getting a few cuts and bruises and scrapes along the way.
If you want an easy ride without stress, tension, cock-ups, rework, doubts, tears, anger, disappointment, and disillusionment… Don’t start a business.
If you do want to start a business, then you need to register with a very specific school. It’s called the School of Hard Knocks. And what you’ll learn each day will keep you from harm.
Sure, you’ll get a few bruises along the way, and maybe your dignity will end up flat on its arse after you screw something up spectacularly, but you know what, that’s actually how you learn.
Over 100 years ago, two of Thomas Edison’s assistants came into his office and said, “Mr. Edison, we’ve failed 289 times to get your stupid bulb of light to work. And it’s still not working. We’ve had enough. Can we work on splitting the atom or something?”
Edison said, “Boys, you now know 289 ways to not make the ball of light work, so you must be very close to making it work. So bugger off out of my office, stop being cry-babies and try again.” They went out and on the 291st attempt, they created electric light for the whole planet. True story! Well, almost true…
So what are the 3 scary reasons that stop so many people from living the life they want as business owners? I hear these all the time from people who are very competent, and confident in their current version of reality.
The first one is, “I’m not good enough at xyz, so why would people buy from me?”
Interesting view. I’m good enough to earn a salary doing xyz, and I have been doing it for several years. But as soon as I have to convince other people that I know what I’m doing and ask them to pay, I’m suddenly not good enough.
Here’s the thing. You DO know a lot more about xyz than the people who actually need xyz. They are at 3 out of 10. They know what it is and what it will do for them, but not how to do it themselves.
You don’t have to be 10 out of 10 to sell your services to them. If you’re 6 out of 10 then, that’s enough to be the expert they need. You’ll have a little humility too, instead of being a wiseass who literally knows it all! And you can always do a little more learning and get to a 7 or 8 out of 10. After that, the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in and you get very little extra return on a great deal more effort. Also known as a PhD.
The second big scary reason is, “I don’t know anything about getting clients.”
Well, nor did I when I started this business. My other businesses are all demand-based, which means that people really needed my services and found me online. I never spent a penny on marketing. Some people say, “I know fuck all about marketing”. Well I was even worse than that. I knew fuck nothing!
So, this is what I did. And if I can do it at my age, you younglings can do it, too.
I asked Mrs. Google about 200 times about all the different ways to find clients.
Then I took all that advice and I boiled it down to five things.
Then I learned everything I could about how to do those five things.
And then I went and found someone who did those five things for a living and got them to do it for me.
And they brought five other things that I vaguely know bout, which also work really well.
And now we have sharp, relevant and innovative marketing which is making us heaps of sales.
The third big reason people give me is, “I’m really good at xyz, but I have no idea how to run a business.”
There’s a skill to running a business. And that skill is to be able to do several things at once. Kind of like the people who spin plates on the tops of long sticks. But the good news is that most of the time, you don’t have to switch from one thing to another as quickly as those dudes, and you don’t break as many plates because you have time to change things if they way you are doing something now is a little wobbly.
Notice the use of the words “skill”, “time”, and “change”. Running a business effectively is all about those three words. Learning the skills; doing the right things at the right time; and being prepared to change course away from something that isn’t working, as soon as you see the need for change.
There is a set number of skills to learn in running a business. They don’t really change very much. The underlying principles are the same. Understand what people want in order to make some pain go away or to make things better; provide them with the solution that gets rid of the pain or makes things better than they can themselves; and charge a price which they and you feel represents the value you have created. You can learn that. From so many different places. From me, even!
You’d be stunned how many people think it’s OK to go into business without knowing anything about running a business, and never set out to learn the skills. And crash in a heap. Like getting into the pilot’s seat of a plane and taking off without going to flying school, or even reading Boy’s Own magazine articles about flying! I’m serious. Don’t be one of those.
So let’s wrap it up.
Now you know you are good enough at xyz to start a business, or you know what more you need to learn to become a 6/10.
You know how to learn and/or buy in the wonderful skills of Marketing.
And now you know the basics of running a business, and what more you need to learn to do it well and to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.
Well done you! That wasn’t so hard, was it now?
So, as Tom E. nearly said, “Wipe ya nose, get outta my face and give it a go!”