Movies like The Social Network and TV shows like Silicon Valley glamorize the startup life as one of excitement, passion and – ultimately – payoff. Stories like Instagram’s Kevin Systrom walking away with 400 million after selling Instagram to Facebook make it impossible not to think “Maybe I should go into business for myself…”
You’re probably able to separate fact from fiction and recognize Systrom’s case as a one-in-a-million (one-in-a-400-million?) success story. You may even know that, according to the Small Business Administration, while two-thirds of small businesses survive two years in business, only one-third survive past year ten .
If you’re still feeling that entrepreneurial itch, it’s time to get real. Business ownership on any scale is hard work. If you aren’t 100% sure you’re up to the task, check yourself against the following 100 reasons NOT to start a business:
You Aren’t Cut Out for Business Ownership
- You’re in it for the money. Don’t start a business to get rich. The odds of success aren’t in your favor, which means you’re more likely to lose your investment than to walk away with millions.
- You’re in it for the notoriety. Starting a company for press attention is putting the cart before the horse. Build a strong brand with an interesting story, and the media attention will follow.
- You won’t put your business’s needs ahead of your own. If you had to live on Ramen for a week to make payroll, could you do it?
- You’re running away from something. Take it from Susan Payton, writing for AllBusiness : “You need to run toward entrepreneurship if you want to succeed. Otherwise, you’re just hiding from your problems and creating more.”
- You aren’t confident. You don’t need to be arrogant to succeed, but you do need enough confidence to enroll others into your vision .
- You aren’t disciplined. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars. And do not start a business if you aren’t disciplined enough to get through the inevitable hard times.
- You don’t have established productivity systems in place. Get productive before you start a business – not after. Practice effective time and energy management before making the leap.
- Your biggest goal in your life is happiness. Working long hours with no breaks can leave you decidedly unhappy. You need a bigger motivator in place than your personal happiness if you want to push past the hard times.
- You hate having difficult conversations. Difficult conversations will happen with customers, employees, vendors, investors and more. We’re paraphrasing, but as they say, “If you can’t handle the heat, don’t open a kitchen (or any other business, for that matter).”
- You aren’t passionate about something. Successful businesses are driven by passion. If you don’t have passion of your own, what can you honestly expect to contribute to those that do?
- You don’t have a strategic vision for the future. Effective entrepreneurs are big thinkers. You must be able to see beyond your current challenges to your future success.
- You don’t know what your strengths are. Knowing your strengths enables you to spend time on the activities where you’ll have the highest impact, as well as delegate tasks that others are better suited to.
- You can’t objectively analyze your weaknesses. Everybody has weaknesses. There’s no shame in that. Understand what yours are so that you can create a plan to remedy them.
- You can’t accept the possibility of failure. Entrepreneurs must live with the possibility of failure every day. If that thought leaves you too incapacitated to function, choose another path.
- You aren’t willing to trade the work you’re good at for CEO life. Just because you’re a good accountant doesn’t mean you’ll be a good CEO of an accounting firm. If it’s the work itself you like , stick to a regular job or self-employment.
- You’ve burned all your bridges. Business owners need networks to succeed. If you’ve ended all your relationships on bad notes, you’ll have a much harder time getting off the ground.
You Aren’t In the Right Place In Your Life
- You can’t function without sleep. When you start a new business, you need to be prepared for many sleepless nights – whether because you’re working around-the-clock or you’re worrying about your success.
- Your family life can’t take the long hours. If your partner has a demanding job or if childcare falls entirely to you, there’s no shame in waiting to start a business until your family life is in a more stable place.
- You’re caring for young children or an aging relative. Family demands don’t automatically disqualify you from starting a business. You do, however, need to think carefully about the impact doing so will have on those you care for.
- There’s no free time in your schedule. If your schedule is already packed with obligations you can’t step away from, adding a new business to your docket will only overtax your already-stressed systems.
- Your partner or spouse isn’t on board. Consultant Noah Fleming shares: “If you run into the situation where your spouse won’t let you start a business, chances are your spouse feels that way for a reason.”
- You can’t (or won’t) travel. Business travel isn’t always required, but attending events – out-of-state or otherwise – can speed up the critical process of building your network.
- Your health won’t allow intense work. The “sitting at your desk all day, eating Ramen at night” lifestyle isn’t great for anyone’s health. Those dealing with chronic health conditions need to carefully consider the potentially negative impact of extreme stress.
- You’re in school. Startup businesses require all your focus. Juggling school with these added demands means, necessarily, giving both a half-hearted effort.
- Your support systems are weak. Successful entrepreneurs don’t do it alone. Proceed with caution if you have no partner to share household responsibilities with, no friends to help relieve your stress, or no mentors to give you guidance.
- You have no good outlets for stress. If you don’t currently have strategies in place for releasing stress, form them now – before you start your new company.
- You aren’t willing to give up your hobbies. We love hobbies, but if you’re committed to one in a major way that you aren’t willing to give up, it may be tough to find enough energy and focus to dedicate to both – at least in the initial stages.
- You aren’t comfortable with technology. You don’t have to know code or cutting-edge tech to succeed in business, but you may find yourself using computer-based CRM systems, order management programs, social media marketing tools and more. Get comfy with current tech tools before heading out on your own.
You Don’t Have the Right Personality
- You aren’t creative. Not only do you need a creative vision on which to base your company, you’ll need to be creative to face the challenges that’ll inevitably arise down the road.
- You need routine. No two days are alike for entrepreneurs. If you need the comfort of a daily routine, stick with your day job.
- You have to be in control. Taming a startup company is like trying to wrangle an octopus into a dress. You can’t be effective if you’re more committed to control than to the necessary outcomes.
- You hate networking. You won’t succeed alone. If the thought of networking is like nails on a chalkboard to you, you’ll have trouble finding the people who will help your business along the way.
- You’re disorganized. When you’re running a company, disorganization isn’t “cute.” Being messy puts you at risk of missing deadlines, losing important information and failing to follow up on your business’s most important needs.
- You can’t handle failure. Think about your past failures. If you looked at them as learning opportunities, proceed. If you can’t get past the shame and embarrassment, consider another path forward.
- You need perfection. Perfection sounds ideal, but in practice, requiring perfect conditions, perfect wisdom and perfect insight will leave you stagnant and frustrated.
- You get overwhelmed easily. Does the thought of a to-do list overflowing with items you know you’ll never get to sound overwhelming? Successful entrepreneurs know how to handle overwhelming circumstances in order to move forward effectively.
- You won’t learn. Effective entrepreneurs read. They attend courses. They listen to podcasts. The learn because they know that, if they don’t, they’ll always be one step behind their competitors.
- You don’t want to wear multiple hats. When you start a business, you may find yourself not just CEO, but customer service, accounting, R&D and more, as well. If you prefer a narrower field of focus, remain in a job that lets you specialize.
- You can’t self-evaluate. Self-evaluation isn’t always comfortable; it’s understandable why many people shy away from it. Learning to look within critically, but without judgement, is an essential entrepreneurial skill.
- You’re indecisive. Business owners are constantly having to make decisions in the face of imperfect information. If you can’t choose where to go to dinner on any given night, that’s a good sign you might struggle with the challenges of entrepreneurship.
- You can’t handle confrontation. Running your own company means facing issues head-on. You don’t have to be a jerk, but you do need to be able to keep your composure while you do what needs to be done.
- You never complete projects. Look around your desk – and be honest. Is it cluttered with projects you started, but never got around to finishing? Self-motivation is a necessary trait for entrepreneurs, who don’t have a boss looking over their shoulders to ensure the work gets done.
- You’re dishonest. Entrepreneurship requires honesty – with yourself, with your employees, with your customers and with your advisors. If you’d rather lie than share uncomfortable truths, do everyone a favor and skip business ownership.
- You’re thin-skinned. As the saying goes, haters gonna hate. Being an entrepreneur means putting yourself out there publicly. Not everyone is going to like you or what you stand for, so if you’re thin-skinned, you won’t be able to hack it.
- You lack energy. Think about it – would you want to work for someone who lacks energy and excitement about the work they’re doing? We wouldn’t either.
- You can’t motivate others. Scaling a company means adding employees, and employees are only as good as you can motivate them to be.
- You can’t focus. Working as an entrepreneur means cutting through thousands of distractions in order to focus on work that moves the needle for your company. If you can’t focus, you can’t do that.
- You hate being wrong. You’re going to be wrong, and you’re going to be held accountable for it. Learn to get over it, or get out of the way.
You Don’t Know How to Sell
- You don’t know how to attract customers. For your business to be successful, you have to actually sell goods or services to consumers. Study marketing and advertising before launching your company if you don’t know how to get your message in front of possible customers.
- You don’t understand the difference between features and benefits. Know what your company does and what that means for customers. Learn this distinction inside and out before jumping into entrepreneurship.
- You can’t express your value proposition in a compelling way. You know your company has value, but can you express it to consumers in a way that motivates them to take action?
- You don’t know how to listen to your customers. Ignoring your customers’ feedback is a surefire way to appear arrogant and lose them to competitors. Listening requires energy and openness, but it’s necessary if you want to be successful.
- You aren’t able to sell mentors, investors and other stakeholders on your vision. As an entrepreneur, you aren’t just selling to customers. You’re also “selling” your vision to the people you want on board the bus with you.
- You can’t get a partner on board. Many successful entrepreneurs partner with others who can shore up their weaknesses. If you can’t attract a partner, it could be because of weaknesses you haven’t considered.
- You don’t know how to motivate employees to do their best work. You have to sell employees on your vision as well. If they don’t buy into what you’re trying to accomplish, they’ll never give you their best efforts .
You Can’t Handle Risk
- You don’t like uncertainty. Entrepreneurship means existing in a perpetual state of uncertainty. There’s no shame in admitting that that’s not right for you.
- You don’t know how to minimize risk. Successful entrepreneurs don’t take risks for the hell of it. They educate themselves, and do everything they can to minimize the risk of failure. Writer Megan Elliot says : “Successful entrepreneurs don’t take big risks just for the thrill of it. Rather, they’re calculated risk takers who analyze situations and look for opportunities.”
- You don’t have mentors who can help you. Yes, you can always find mentors later. But the longer you go without them, the longer you’ll lose out on a valuable resource that can help you understand the risk facing you – and how you should proceed.
- You couldn’t handle being sued. Lawsuits happen. Hopefully, you’ll never face one, but if the thought of being sued is enough to break you, you may not have the risk tolerance needed for business ownership.
- You don’t have a plan for handling negative press. Take a look at what happened to Chipotle . While we hope you never face such a press disaster, it’s important to think now about whether or not you’d be able to handle one.
- Losing everything would bankrupt you. This, to entrepreneurs, is the ultimate risk. If bankruptcy would destroy you, you either need an airtight plan (plus a series of contingency backup plans) or another career.
Your Finances Aren’t In Order
- Your credit score is low. Having a low credit score doesn’t mean you can’t start a business, but it does mean you’ll struggle to get growth capital and favorable terms with vendors. Get ready for Boostrap City!
- You’re rolling in debt. Your creditors won’t care that you have less to pay them with because you’re putting money into your new venture. Starting a business when you have an existing debt load is a very risky position to be in.
- You have extensive financial obligations. It’s simple math: if you have an expensive mortgage, excessive car payments, monster student loans or other financial obligations, you’ll have fewer resources to dedicate to your company’s growth.
- You don’t have a budget. If you don’t know what you need to live, you won’t know how much you can safely invest in your company. Start smart, and start by knowing your financial requirements.
- You need a steady paycheck to survive. Once you know your financial requirements, consider carefully how you’ll meet them. If you need a steady paycheck, you need to stay in your current job.
- Self-insurance isn’t an option for you. Purchasing private health insurance can be prohibitively expensive and may not offer the coverage you need if you or a family member has a serious medical condition. It’s frustrating that such a simple factor could hold you back from launching a company, but it’s a reality for many U.S. families.
- You assume it’ll be easy to get a bank loan. Fundera reports that “ 82% of small business loan applications are currently being denied by the big banks.” Don’t expect that this option will be available for you – even if you do have strong credit and savings.
- You have no funding plans besides venture capital. Likewise, don’t expect that an investor is going to fall into your lap and hand you millions. Pursuing venture capital is practically a full-time job in itself.
- You assume you’ll be a crowdfunding success. Crowdfunding success stories are everywhere, but raising capital on these platforms is anything but easy. If you’re committed to crowdfunding, study success stories and plan to put a lot of work into your campaign.
- You don’t have a backup plan in place. What will you do if your company fails? Having a backup plan in place before you set out will minimize the stress associated with possible failure.
- It’d be difficult for you to get a new job if you left your current position. If you’re in an industry or job description where getting a new job quickly is not a given, reconsider entrepreneurship (or at least have an incredibly solid backup plan in place).
- Other people rely on your income. It’s one thing to risk your own financial future. But if partners, parents, children or others rely on your income, you need to be even more proactive about backup planning.
Your Idea Is Bad
- Your idea is your baby. There’s very little that hasn’t been done before. Your idea isn’t a special snowflake, and treating it like is will prevent you from receiving important feedback or pivoting when you need to.
- You don’t have an idea in the first place. If you don’t have an idea, don’t launch a company. It should be as simple as that, and yet so many people let their desire to own a business outweigh their lack of planning.
- You don’t have a plan for turning your idea into a business. An idea isn’t everything, and not all ideas make for successful companies. You don’t necessarily need a formal business plan, but you do need an understanding of how your idea will be profitable.
- You haven’t told anyone about your idea. Sharing your idea with others early on reveals weaknesses that can be addressed before you put any money into it. Don’t be so afraid of being ripped off that you barrel ahead with an idea others would have rightly steered you away from.
- You have no compelling value proposition. What makes your idea special? Can you define it succinctly? If you can’t articulate why your idea will be successful, rethink launching it in the first place.
- You don’t have the resources to execute your vision. So you want to launch an international tech conglomerate, and you have $100 to your name? While resources like partners and venture capital exist, your idea needs to be at least somewhat in line with what you can reasonably harness.
- You’ve done no pre-launch market testing. Don’t launch a company without data proving demand for the product or service you’re envisioning. A few unsuccessful Google Adwords or Facebook Ads campaigns can prevent you from diving into a venture that won’t be successful.
- Somebody’s already doing what you want to do – better. Seeing someone else doing what you want to do isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as competition means there’s a market for your idea. It is a problem, however, if you can’t identify what makes your idea better than theirs.
- You want to get into a highly competitive market. Again, competition isn’t a bad thing, but if you want to start, say, the next Facebook, know that you’re facing an uphill, resource-intensive battle.
- You don’t understand the market you’re entering. Why would you try to sell products or services to people you don’t understand? Spend enough time with your target market that you understand their needs and motivations.
- You’re getting on board with a family member’s idea. Just because brother Jim has a great idea doesn’t mean that you have to join him.
You Don’t Know What You’re Doing
- You don’t understand how businesses work. Running a successful company requires core processes like customer service, HR, R&D and accounting. Be wary of launching your own business if you don’t understand how all these systems work together.
- You don’t understand what a business needs to scale. If your idea takes off, you’ll need to scale your company, which means shifting job responsibilities and expanding in other ways. Unless you’re deliberately starting a smaller company, understanding from the start how businesses scale can help you set things up correctly to facilitate future growth.
- You don’t know how to delegate. You can learn this skill, but consider the following from Gary Shouldis of 3BugMedia : “As your business grows and you start to expand past a one man band, you will need to hire and train new people, who will do things that you used to do. If you’re the micromanaging, ‘get out of my way, I can do it better’ kind of guy, you may be in trouble.”
- You don’t know how to hire. Eventually, you’ll be able to bring in an HR team, but know that, early on, you’ll likely be making your own hires. It’s part art and part science – and it’s something you’ll need to learn if you want to grow your business.
- You aren’t comfortable firing underperforming employees. Firing bad workers is a necessary startup evil, and it isn’t a fun one. According to Daniel Zeevi of Dashburst : “Now that you are running a business you’ll have to make tough decisions each day which can include firing people and sometimes throwing ‘nice’ out the window.” Can you handle being the bad guy?
- You don’t understand cash flow. Poor cash flow management is one of the leading causes of small business failure in the U.S.
- You don’t understand basic accounting. To calculate your cash flow, you’ll need a basic understanding of accounting (at least, until you can bring on an accountant or agency). Get the foundations down before taking your next step.
- You don’t know how to price your products. Surely, your idea is so valuable you can command 200% of what your competitor is charging, right? Think again. Product pricing relies heavily on an understanding of consumer psychology. If you don’t get it right, you’ll never generate enough early cash flow to stay afloat.
- You don’t know how to establish vendor relationships. Launching a physical product means sourcing manufacturers, distributors and more. You’ll need to do plenty of research and due diligence in order to get started.
- You’re terrible at customer service. When you launch, you may be your customers’ only point of contact. Being rude, forgetful or dismissive reflects poorly on your company and puts you at risk of receiving the bad reviews that could shut you down.
- You hate data. Successful entrepreneurs thrive on gathering data and understanding what it’s telling them. Learn to love the numbers if you want to be a successful entrepreneur.
- You can’t read analytics reports. Analytics reports are the second half of the data equation. They’re necessary to understanding the impact of your data, which means they’re a necessary part of your day-to-day routine as an entrepreneur.
- You don’t know how to set target metrics and KPIs. Successful companies become successful because they’re laser-focused on the metrics that matter most to their growth.
- You don’t know what success means. “Success” is a nebulous term. Is success for you a certain revenue goal? A target number of subscribers? Press in national magazines? If you can’t define success, you won’t be able to align your actions to achieving it.
- You don’t know when to abandon failed projects. Entrepreneurs know they have to be ruthless about cutting their losses. No matter how much love you’ve poured into a product, when the numbers tell you it’s got to go, it’s got to go.
- You can’t innovate. Why launch a business if all you’re after is doing business as usual? Continually strive for excellence. Innovate your way to success.
Obviously, there’s no single person who meets all of these criteria. We aren’t saying that you have to be perfect to start a business – only that you need to understand how much work really goes into launching a company.
If you can be honest about your weaknesses and take the necessary steps to address them, you’ll find that all of this effort will be worth it in the end.