Starting a new business can be a turbulent undertaking. For one thing, there are no guarantees of success. Businesses fail every single day, and plenty of entrepreneurs come away with nothing to show for months or years of hard-fought effort. The idea of sacrificing a steady salary for an uncertain, hoped-for payday also tends to provoke anxiety.
While some are undeterred by these obstacles, others opt to play it safe and scrap their business plans altogether. Below are six of the most prevailing reasons why people are afraid to start businesses (and whether they make sense.)
1. The Economy
Some of the most common fears about starting businesses relate to how “the economy” is doing. If the economy is in a lull, many would be entrepreneurs assume that now must necessarily be the wrong time to get started. This belief is reinforced by nay-saying politicians and journalists who exaggerate even the very worst economic news.
Remember, though, that there is no single entity called “the economy.” What is loosely referred to as the economy is really just the vast, interconnected web of buyers and sellers accommodating each other through the market and price system. Moreover, there are two sides to every transaction. While some sectors of the economy may be hurting (such as finance and housing today), those on the other side of the affected transaction (like foreclosure specialists and storage facilities) could be thriving.
Another fear that stops entrepreneurs from getting started is the uncertainty inherent in owning a business. Unlike a salaried job, business ownership provides no immediate or guaranteed pay. Income, if any, is commensurate with the company’s sales or profits. If you have grown accustomed to being paid on a regular schedule regardless of outcome, trading that in for the uncertainty of business ownership can feel like a leap of faith. It is entirely legitimate to wonder if your business will be capable of providing for you or your family.
That said, there is a flip side to the uncertainty. If and when your business does produce an income, no boss or employer can take it away. Never again will you have to plead for a raise or demonstrate why you “deserve” more. In business, your income is entirely determined by what you produce and/or sell.
Others have reservations because they are undecided about what type of business to start. More often than not, these are people who know they want to be self-employed, but not in what capacity. This, too, can be a legitimate fear to have. If you currently work in a steady career, it is not enough to simply “go into business.” In order to credibly go off on your own, you must be confident about what kind of business you will open. You must also have the skills and expertise to succeed in that business.
Current or previous jobs are a good reference point. If you currently work for an accounting firm, starting your own is perfectly reasonable. Deciding to abruptly change course and buy an Alaskan crab fishing boat might warrant more scrutiny.
Debt can constitute a serious obstacle to entrepreneurship. If you are saddled with student loans or credit card bills, it will be difficult to obtain any start-up financing you might need. In severe instances (such as if your wages are being garnished), any income your business produces will go directly to your creditors anyway.
Needless to say, concern about your pre-existing debt is a completely defensible reason to fear starting a business. Rather than trying to juggle both at once, focus squarely on repaying all of your debts first. Once your financial slate is wiped clean, you can move on to business ownership with a clear mind.
5. Family Obligations
Financial concerns are not the only reason people fear starting businesses. The early years of a new company can be incredibly taxing, and some fear having little time to spend with their families. After all, everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day. There is only so much of yourself to go around, and if you’re putting in ten or twelve hour days at work, there is no way to also spend that time at home. (Unless you have a home office, that is.)
It may truthfully be that family time is a deal-breaker for you. On the other hand, don’t be too quick to relinquish your ambitions. Discuss with your spouse whether arrangements or sacrifices can be made for the early days of your company.
6. No Benefits
Finally, other would-be entrepreneurs worry about what losing benefits, such as employer-provided health insurance or 401(k) contributions, will do to their overall finances. This, too, is a serious concern worth addressing. Perhaps you or a family member has a long-standing health condition. In such a scenario, a sudden lack of coverage could prove devastating.
Not every situation is so dire, however. Retirement accounts (including IRAs, Solo 401(k)s and self-employed pensions) can be opened and funded on your own without the help of any employer. It may also be possible to form a pool with other entrepreneurs and buy health insurance at lower group rates, which is essentially how large employers buy it.