SCORE Small Business Blog

Should You Be “Scared” to Start a Business?

Are you scared to start a business? Many people are—and that’s natural. Fear is a sign we’re doing something different and new—and it doesn’t have to stop us from moving forward.

But sometimes, it’s the lack of fear that’s a warning sign. If you’re completely fearless about starting a business, maybe it’s because you’re the kind of person who jumps out of airplanes for fun. Or maybe it’s because you’re clueless and haven’t thought your idea through. How do you know the difference?

Are you fearless even though….

  • Your spouse or significant other has lots of concerns about the business?
  • Your market research isn’t showing a big demand for your product or service?
  • There’s absolutely no competition in the marketplace for your idea?
  • You face significant obstacles to starting and profiting from your idea?

A big part of starting smart is assessing your risks and planning for how you’ll handle them. Here are some steps you should be taking before you start your business:

  • Do market research. Is there a demand for your product or service? How big is the market and how easy is it to penetrate? Are there lots of competitors, or none at all? (Both can be warning signs.) Is the industry you’re entering in growth mode, or is it in decline?
  • Know your costs. How much will it cost to start your business, including paying yourself if you need a salary? Do you have the capital you need? If not, where will you get it and how realistic are those plans?
  • Talk to your family. If you’re humming along but your spouse is a nervous wreck at the idea of your starting a business, you need to find out what’s worrying him or her. Get specifics (“We’ll lose the house/the kids’ college fund”) and show how you’ve planned so these problems won’t happen.
  • Have a backup plan. Most startup business owners rosily assume everything will go according to plan. But successful business owners also plan for the opposite. Consider the worst that could happen and how you’d deal with it. What if your financing doesn’t come through, your marketing strategy doesn’t work or your prices turn out to be too high? What bigger industry, national and global trends could torpedo your business? It’s crucial to have a backup plan.

If you have taken these steps, and still feel no fear, congratulations—looks like you’re ready to jump out of that plane.

If you’re getting nervous, think of SCORE mentors as your parachute. Visit the SCORE website to get matched with a mentor for free business advice 24/7.

Rieva LesonskyCEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva | More from Rieva

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Discussion (2) Comment

  1. Wayne MeltonVisitor

    Fear. Keeps people from reaching their goals but also making “big” mistakes in their business life.

    You need two things to start a business. One is Money. The second is a skill which translates into a product or service that someone wants to buy.

    How much money you need varies greatly. However once you run out your business is dead. So do not run out of money.

    So start first by deciding what you want to offer (sell) to customers. Then build a business from there.

    Wayne Melton

  2. This is great advice. You’re right about fear. You should have it but don’t let it stop you. Use it to motivate you. You must believe you can succeed and be willing to do what it takes to succeed. I remember being afraid to leave my steady, low paying job to start my appliance repair business with no guarantee that I’d be successful. I just knew that I was good at my trade and I would always be fair & honest with my customers. That was 1998 and I’ve built a very successful appliance repair business in Palmdale, CA. It’s been very rewarding because my son showed interest and wanted to learn. I’ve trained him and he’s become a great technician. One day he’ll take over the business. Sure glad I didn’t allow the fear to stop me.


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