15 Obstacles Keeping You From Starting Your Own Business

Woman baker hanging 'open' sign on door of bakery
You aren't particularly fond of your job -- and you have this great business idea -- but something always keeps you from acting on it.

If you're like most people who aspire to one day have their own business, you've probably been putting this move off for years.

But why?

There are at least 15 obstacles keeping you from starting your own business. But try to take it in stride -- they're common reasons which keep a lot of people from getting started on their business idea. Some of them are tangible problems, but most are primarily driven by emotion.

The good news is you can fix all of them.

1. Fear of The Unknown

Fear is just a part of the human condition. It's an emotion which rears its ugly head anytime you're about to take a plunge into the unknown. And if you're going to start your own business there will be plenty of unknowns, which means plenty to fear.

At the top of the list is fear of failure -- what if you start a business and it doesn't make it? What if you can't get your old job back? What if the business failure lands you in bankruptcy court? What if you lose your home because the business doesn't make enough money?

Solution: Everyone has fears, but some people are better at managing them than others. And that's really the key -- managing your fears.

Try taking these steps:
  • Avoid playing the "what if" game -- learn to separate legitimate concerns from fears based primarily on emotion. Make a list of the legitimate concerns only.
  • Come up with an action plan that addresses each of the legitimate concerns, with the understanding that some risks can only be minimized, not eliminated entirely.
  • While it's easy to dream up unknown horrors, understand that there will also be unexpected advantages that will come your way also.
  • Realize that while there are risks to doing anything that is completely new, there are also risks that come from doing nothing. For example, if you lose your job in the middle of a deep recession you'll be facing all of your worst fears head-on, and none of them will be as a result of starting your own business.
Fear is never a reason to not go forward, but rather a call to manage the risks that are part of your legitimate concerns.

2. You're Comfortable on Your Job

Just as fear can stop you dead in your tracks, comfort can also keep you from moving forward, but for very different reasons. If you are too settled in your job, you might find it difficult to leave. But comfort isn't necessarily a tangible reason for staying in a situation, particularly if you have something better planned.

Solution: Recognize that the level of comfort you have on your job could very easily change. A new work assignment, a new boss, or even a new coworker can make that comfort level go away in short order. By starting your own business, you'll begin to build a new comfort zone -- one where you'll have infinitely greater control. Look forward to that, rather than focusing on the comfort of the moment that your job offers.

3. You Don't Have Any Savings

This is one of the obstacles that qualifies as a real problem. That is to say that it is an obstacle that you will have to fix before you can move forward. In starting a business, you'll absolutely need savings. You may need it to pay for start-up expenses, but you'll certainly need it to cover the missing cash flow that almost always attends the start of a new business.

Solution: If you don't have any savings you'll have to change that before you launch your business. Here are some ways to do that:
  • Delay the start of your business until you have the savings you need.
  • Cut your living expenses to make room to save money -- you'll have to do that before starting your business anyway.
  • Sell off any possessions you don't need to raise capital -- your second home, a boat or even a car that isn't absolutely necessary.
  • Make sure that you have at least enough money saved to cover your living expenses for six months. Startup expenses will increase the requirement.
  • Absolutely don't borrow money to cover savings. You may need to borrow later, and you'll want to keep the channels clear.
4. You Have Too Much Debt

This is one of the most common reasons why people are reluctant to go into business for themselves. If it will be tough to generate enough cash flow to cover your living expenses, having to service debt from your previous life can make the effort close to impossible.

Solution: Once again, plan to delay the start of your business until you get your debt situation under control. Take a second job, cut your living expenses (are you noticing a pattern?), sell off any assets that have debts attached to them, and absolutely refuse to take on any new debt under any circumstances.

5. Your Cost of Living Is High -- And You Don't Want To Change It

One burden you will not be able to afford to carry into self-employment is an expensive lifestyle. This is one of the main reasons for business failures -- it just isn't possible to start a brand-new business while trying to support a luxurious lifestyle.

Solution: Twice I suggested cutting your living expenses -- in connection with saving money and paying off debt -- and it's an obvious repeat here. But you might have to take it a step further than that. You may have to take a close look at your structural expenses. This will include your home and the cars you drive.

If you're seriously committed to starting a business, you may have to consider moving to a less expensive home, and trading down on your transportation. Your chances of business success will improve if you do.

6. You Don't Have Enough Confidence in Yourself

At the root, this sounds like I'm not sure I can do this. Newsflash: you'll never know until you try. If you're doing something completely new, something you've never done before, you have to do it a few times successfully before you develop that confidence level.

Solution: Never let a lack of confidence hold you back -- it's perfectly natural. Instead create a plan that will help you develop the confidence you need. For starters, you can choose to go into a business that's related to work that you're either doing now or have done in the past. If it's something totally new, try getting your feet wet by taking a part-time job or some type of contract arrangement in a related business. This will enable you to get the experience and develop the confidence that you need to go forward.

7. You Don't Have 'The Perfect Plan'

The saying among carpenters is measure twice, cut once. But life isn't as exact as carpentry. Sometimes even after you've done all the measuring you can, you still don't have the perfect plan. Don't let that be your obstacle -- you'll never have a perfect plan no matter how hard you try.

Solution: Let go of the quest for perfection. Get started with the best plan you can come up with. Even more important than having perfect plan is to be prepared to be flexible in the face of changing circumstances. When you go into business, you'll have as many of those as you can handle, and dealing with them will be far more important than your original plan.

8. You Hate Sales

If you're going to go into business for yourself, you're going to have to embrace your inner salesperson -- there's no way around it. For a lot of people, this can be a huge obstacle -- one big enough to keep a person from ever starting a business in the first place.

Solution: Any time you've been on a job interview, what were you doing? You were selling! And what was the "product" you were selling? It was YOU!

That's the basic idea of selling when you have your own business too.

Drop any notions that you have to do stereo-typical "hard" selling, you probably won't need to. In today's world, it's easier to win people over with gentle persuasion than with the hard-sell. It's mostly about taking your product or service, and talking to potential customers about what makes it good. Not everyone will buy your sales pitch, but it doesn't matter.

You only need enough sales to make your business profitable.

If you think you need help in the sales area, take a course or two at a local college. Or take courses in public speaking. Once you get comfortable talking in front of people, sales is really pretty easy.

9. Your Family and Friends Might Not Approve

This is probably the worst excuse for an obstacle to going into business for yourself. But it is an obstacle for some people nonetheless. For example, if mom and dad put out a lot of money for the college education that landed you in the career you're in now, they may not be too pleased with your deciding to take a major detour.

Solution: Starting your own business has never about other people. After all, if the venture fails, they won't be the ones losing money on it. It's your life, and you have to do what you think is best. If your business thrives, you'll probably win them over anyway. Never let this be an obstacle.

10. You Don't Want to Go Through That Temporary Loss of Income Thing

This is another of those "real" obstacles. In the modern world, you need money to do just about anything you want to do. When you start a business, the temporary loss of income is an expected part of the package.

Solution: Rather than allowing this obstacle to stop you, instead concentrate on how you can work around it:
  • Have some money saved up cover your first few months of operation.
  • Take on part-time or contract work to help bring in an income while your business is ramping up. A part-time job with benefits might even be a better solution.
  • Start your business as a side venture, that way you can build a cash flow before taking the plunge on a full-time basis.
11. You Don't Like the Idea of "Wearing Multiple Hats"

This is a common problem with upstart small businesses, and it falls in the category of real obstacles. If you have been working in a formal employment situation for a number of years, you're probably very accustomed to working on a small piece of your employer's business. But when you're in your own business, you're responsible for everything, and that's a real juggling act.

Solution: There's no way to get around the multitasking issue when your business is first starting out. Try to focus on the future, when you'll have sufficient cash flow to pay others to help with the workload.

In the meantime, concentrate on the activities that are most important to getting your business up and running. Most likely, those functions will be marketing and sales. These are the activities which will generate your cash flow, and eventually provide the funds to pay others to do jobs you don't want to handle.

Plan on spending most of your daytime hours working on those core activities, saving the rest to work on in the evening. Until your sales start to grow, those other functions probably won't require much time and attention anyway.

12. You're Worried About How and Where You'll Find Customers and Clients

This is a perfectly legitimate obstacle, and the only to address it is by having a game plan up and running.

Solution: In Obstacle No. 10, I recommended starting your business as a side venture to get a cash flow going before taking the business full-time. The same advice applies here -- by starting your business as a side venture while you hold your job, you have an opportunity to get a few customers and clients in before you start flying solo.

In addition, find out what other people in the same line of business are doing to get customers and clients, learn all you can about it, and do what they're doing. The age old advice applies here: never try reinventing the wheel.

13. You're Worried About Losing Your Company Benefits

Another legitimate obstacle, but one which is mostly temporary.

Solution: Plan to go on your spouses benefits, if he or she has a job that provides them. If not, opt to take the least expensive health insurance plan you can get, the cheapest term life insurance you can get, and let go of any notions of funding your retirement until your business has a solid cash flow.

Once it does, you'll be in a position to get all the benefits you currently have on your job, and then some. For example, Solo 401(k) plans for the self-employed can be much more generous than company sponsored 401(k) plans provided to employees.

It's definitely something to look forward to.

14. You Have Hobbies That Take Up a Lot of Your Time

If you're thinking you may need to give up your weekends on the golf course, you're probably thinking in the right direction. As explained in Obstacle No. 11, you'll need all the time you can get for all the hats you'll be wearing in your business.

Solution: The loss of hobby time will almost certainly be temporary. Once your business reaches the point of providing you with a living wage, you can start getting back into leisure activities. You'll still need decompression time, but it will need to be in activities that aren't so all-encompassing.

BONUS: Eliminating major hobbies will not only help free up your time, but it's also a way to lower your expenses. Plus, you might actually be able to make money from your hobbies.

15. You Have a High Security Drive

Some people are just wired with a high security drive. They need certainty before doing anything. That can be a real obstacle not only when it comes to starting your own business, but on an ongoing basis. Being self-employed typically includes more variables than having a job.

Solution: This is another issue that's emotion driven, so you will have to find a way to manage it or it can turn into a obstacle to running your business forever. Here are some suggestions:
  • Understand the sense of security you attach to a job may be an illusion. A sudden job loss is all it will take to prove the point.
  • Having your own business is often more secure than holding a job. For example, if your business declines, you can find new sources of revenue (something you should always be doing when you're self-employed anyway). If you lose your job, it's goodbye income, and you'll have to start from scratch.
  • Recognize there truly is no security in life, so personal preferences do matter.
  • Develop a business plan than will include the creation of multiple income sources, which will make your business more secure than your job ever was.
If you want to start a business, understand obstacles are not stop signs, but challenges you need to overcome. If you can embrace that idea when you start your business, you'll be fully prepared to deal with whatever confronts you later on.
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