Why Starting A Business Is So Hard — Here’s what I wish people knew

Damn, starting a business is hard! Even though I’ve been here before, it’s still like pulling teeth. Most of the time it feels like taking one step forwards and two steps backwards.

Running an existing business can also be hard work, but with a brand new business (or idea), there’s no momentum pulling you forward. It feels like swimming upstream.

In the thick of this now, I thought I’d take a moment to understand why starting a business is so hard.

As I see it, there are four main challenges to starting a business…

Challenge #1: Distractions

Have you ever decided to get started on something but delayed starting until you get your ‘ducks in a row‘? I know I have and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Unfortunately, the timing will never be perfect and you’ll never be on top of all those projects with loose ends. The photo books will still be waiting, your contacts list doesn’t really need cleaning out, once the kids get to the next stage, there’ll be that stage to deal with, and so it goes on. Be aware of this type of thinking as a just a distraction that can keep us from taking meaningful action towards actually starting.

The other category of distractions is more subtle because it feels like you’re making progress. It’s consuming content that is somewhat related to the business we’re trying to launch. It’s things like that “how to run a kick-arse webinar” course, the “learn to create a wick Facebook advertising campaign” pdf you just downloaded, or the article about “7 things entrepreneurs do every day”. Hang on, I don’t even have a product yet!

These “shiny objects” are pushed in front of us all the time but unless the content is something we’ve actively decided we need to learn about, we need to recognise that they’re really just distractions. Having faith that we can learn about those things at the right time later is something we should all practise.

Challenge #2: Uncertainty

Basically this comes down to; “I don’t know what to do!”.

Unfortunately there’s no playbook of the 37 exact steps you need to take to start business A. (Wouldn’t it be great if there was!) Every business is different and there’s many different paths to getting something up and running.

If you don’t have a plan for starting your business, it can get really messy. There are distractions to contend with and you’ll find yourself second-guessing what you should be working on. Take some time to figure out the steps you think you’ll need to take to start your business. You may want to speak to a business mentor or someone already operating in that space.

You can also use our New Business Launch Plan to help organise your thoughts. Once you have a plan, you’ll know what it is you should be focussed on each day.

Challenge #3: Road Blocks

Even with a great business launch plan in place, there are thousands of things that can, and will go wrong.

Perhaps you thought something would work and it doesn’t, or perhaps the first step is taking far longer than anticipated. These are the times when it feels like you’ll never get this business launched.

Starting (and running!) a business is all about finding and solving problems. Although it might seem like you’ll be fine once you solve the problem in front of you, unfortunately the problems never stop. The challenge is to figure out your way around each problem — determining which ones are important, considering alternative options to try, and deciding on a new course of action.

Challenge #4: Self-Doubts

Chances are, that when you decided to start a business, you felt great. Buzzing on the excitement and anticipation of it all, it’s easy to put in a few late nights and make some progress.

But then somewhere along the line, you lose confidence. For instance, here are some things that happened to me in the last week — each causing a lot of self-doubt…

  • Although I’d previously researched my competition and thought I knew all the main players in the industry, I recently came across another one. This one is not as well known but looks amazing. In fact, I love everything they’re doing. Although their product has a different angle, when I see how advanced they are with their product, marketing, community, etc, it certainly makes me question starting a business in the same industry.
  • I had a conversation with someone who asked me some questions that I know I should have a well-thought-out answer to; “who’s your target market?”, “what will your pricing be?”, “what platform are you going to build this in?”. Who am I to think I can start a business without knowing the answers to some basic questions like these?
  • I was working with a highly skilled professional in an area outside of my expertise… but I realised I wasn’t happy with the work they had done. Am I right to think I have better judgement in this area than they do or should I defer to their experience and better judgement? Who knows but I’m going back to the drawing board to start it again.

No wonder so many people never actually get to launch their businesses.

Starting a Business is all about overcoming Inertia

There are a lot of forces working against you starting a business. Sir Issac Newton’s first two laws of physics state that:

1. An object at rest tends to stay at rest.
2. An object in motion tends to stay in motion.
Starting a business requires you to overcome inertia

Your new business is “at rest” and needs a huge external force — i.e. your effort — to get it into motion. In practice, this includes things like changing your daily life patterns so that you have time to work on your business. Even if you operate in a vacuum, this is hard to do as none of us really like change too much! But also, your friends and family may not like this as it’s different and disturbs the existing rhythms that you’ve all been working and living around.

Once there’s some momentum in place, things get a bit easier

Getting momentum in a new business is the next step. Once you have made some progress, there are other forces that start pulling your business forward. It doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it also doesn’t feel like everything’s working against you either.

In our next article, we’ll look at some ways to create that momentum earlier. Stay tuned!


In the meantime, let your friends and family know why it is that starting a new business is so hard!

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Originally published at dothethings.com on September 14, 2017.