Here’s a question for you: what has given you the confidence to start your business or decide to expand it?
Barry Moltz, author of “Bounce! Failure, Resiliency and the Confidence to Achieve Your Next Great Success,” says that failing can give you confidence. Barry was this week’s guest on my radio show. He shared a litany of failures: he’s gone out of business; was kicked out of another business by his partners; and was fired from more than one job.
In Barry’s words, failure is part of the natural cycle of business. After failing he went on to start a successful business that he ultimately sold. He was able to draw confidence from failures, because, as he said, “I told myself the worst anyone can do to me is eat me, and that’s illegal.”
That brings me back to the question I posed at the start of this article.
I asked 5 experienced entrepreneurs, investors and business authorities the question:
“What has given you the confidence to start/grow your small business?”
Here are their responses:
“Preparation” says Phillip Torrone, MAKE Magazine:
A couple years ago I started a laptop laser etching business (Adafruit Laser) with a friend. We have customers send us their art work. If it’s in the proper format and resolution we book an appointment. They then stop in and we etched their laptop.
I believe confidence in business comes out of preparation — if you believe in what you do and you’re OK with anyone inspecting your processes along the way you can get pretty far.
When we started this business idea, there wasn’t a user manual or information on how to etch the exotic materials laptops are made from – so we did a lot of testing, a lot of preparation and documented everything on our own (www.ladyada.net/resources/laser).
We were not competing with any other businesses, this was (and still mostly is) all very new – all we were interested in doing was the best job possible and documenting everything we could. Laptops aren’t cheap, we’ve never screwed one up with the powerful 35w laser — but there’s always a chance in everything. With enough preparation we became experts.
“Experience and Passion” says Jacob Mullins, VentureBeat:
Starting VentureBeat was definitely a leap of faith, but it was the deep roots the editorial team had with leaders within the venture capital and technology communities that gave us the foundation upon which we could build a solid company. It has taken a great deal of determination and persistence. Creating a company is not an easy feat, but the team’s experience, along with passion about journalism and technology innovation, continues to help it overcome challenges on the business side.
The impetus for starting the company was realizing that we were providing a great product — information — and that no one was providing the same detail and focus. This provided a great deal of confidence. As we continue to expand, one writer at a time, we are careful to stay very close to our core ideals of integrity, objectivity, and quality of product.
By taking our time, and talking to the community in which we are involved, we are able to find our way and continue to grow.
“Communication and Chemistry” says Scott Belsky, Behance.com:
In our experience at Behance, confidence in pursuing a small business has come from the incremental feedback we have received and the “chemistry” that has consistently improved in our team. The confidence was garnered in specific stages as we started and grew the business. If I were to “map out” the path we have taken to gain confidence in the early days of launching a business, I would focus on 5 distinct stages:
(1) Gathering the Panel: When you get a small group of like-minded individuals together to consider a new idea, one of two things happens: You either get more excited about the idea and decide to continue the discussion again , or you leave and lose interest. At Behance, the original “seed” ideas germinated and were developed by people that shared an interest to “organize the creative world.” Some ideas survived while others died. There is something nice about the darwinian approach to starting a new business… And, the panel often becomes (or helps you find) your dream team.
(2) Put Your Money (or Time) Where Your Mouth Is: When an idea starts gaining traction in your mind, it is time to “invest” something in it. Whether it is a period of time that you commit every week to research or an amount of money that you allocate for initial development – you need to invest something. Some companies start with a part-time employee that is being paid by the founder to “mock-up” an preliminary design, website, or concept. This is a great investment in the viability of the business.
(3) The Controlled Test: When the time is right, you will feel a rush of motivation to “test” your concept. Often times this is a controlled microcosm of the business you have in mind. Once you can “market” and gauge initial interest from potential customers, you can become more confident in your concept. Your business doesn’t need to be perfect or revenue-producing to generate confidence – it just needs to gain some traction. At Behance, we started with a blog featuring the interviews we were doing in the creative community. Just having a blog was enough for us to test the initial opportunity.
(4) Listen Listen Listen: The first realization you must have is that your business plan is (likely) wrong, and that the “needs” you first identified may differ from the actual needs and frustrations you must address among your potential customers. To identify the true market opportunity, you must listen. Gathering a small focus group of potential customers and asking questions is the best way to refine your marketing and product.
(5) Debate Toward Shared Conviction: As you incorporate the feedback you are getting and prepare to launch a real business, encourage debate among your team and advisors about the decisions you are making. As debate ensues, try to reach some level of shared conviction in your team. Remember that conviction does not necessarily mean consensus…just a mutual agreement to try a particular strategy. Of course, things will change – and if you continue to listen to the feedback – you can continue to tweak your strategy.
Confidence ultimately comes from data (feedback), honest communication, and a team with a shared commitment.
“Setting Goals” says Andru Edwards, GearLive.com:
When I decided to start Gear Live, it was with the knowledge that I knew I could do it, and that I wanted to strive to be one of the best at what I did. I really do think it is all about drive. When it came to confidence, I was simply confident that I could not only do it, but do it very, very well. With that goal in mind, I forged ahead, and never took my eye off of that goal.
Starting a company on your own is tough, and there are a lot of moments where you are going to question whether it was the right move, or whether you should throw in the towel. I decided that I wouldn’t throw in the towel until I hit my goal. If my goal was to be one of the best, then I couldn’t stop until I got there
In my estimation, if you don’t have the desire to be the best, and would instead be happy with the status quo, then you are in the wrong business. Find something you are passionate about, something that you know you can always get behind, and something that you absolutely, without a doubt, want to achieve. Once you find that, your confidence will be more than enough to not only start a business, but having a very good chance of succeeding.
“Seizing Opportunities” says John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing:
Not sure I can pin the answer to that down anymore as I started over 20 years ago. I do know that I have always felt starting a business wasn’t much of a risk. If you can come to realize that money, or more accurately making money, is a
pretty simple thing, then I believe that you can more fully let go of the how and look for opportunities to do something that you personally find remarkable.
I don’t take direction very well so having the ability to explore new ventures, adjust to new technology and serve in a way that energizes is me is what gives me the confidence and the passion to do what I do.
And finally, I’d like to share my own personal lesson … how I got the confidence to start and grow my current business here at Small Business Trends.
“Persistence” says Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends:
Overnight successes are so rare. For most of us, success comes after years of hard work.
I made up my mind in 2003 when I started this site that I would stick with it through the rough patches. I told myself my business would still be around and thriving in 5 years. And guess what? It’s been almost exactly 5 years.
When I started this business, I continued doing consulting work for a long time. It was a drag to have to spend most of my workweek building other people’s businesses and only finding time for my own in the evenings and on weekends. But those consulting projects gave me cash flow. Cash flow enables you to stay in business through thick and thin. And the longer I managed to stay in business, the more confident I was that next year would be even better.
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So, you’ve now heard from a total of 7 entrepreneurs about what gave us confidence to start or grow our businesses: failure; preparation; experience and passion; communication and chemistry; setting goals; seizing opportunities; and persistence.
Now we want to hear from you: What has given YOU the confidence to start in business?
Fess up in the comments below.