A woman on Facebook blocked me yesterday. She courteously took the trouble to message me to tell me I was blocked, in case I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. She’s quite right, I wouldn’t.
It turns out that there are two approaches to making money by starting your own business. I can’t quote this ‘wantrepreneur’ directly, because I can no longer see her post. I’ll therefore have to paraphrase.
“Most people don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Because most people don’t have that consistency of vision and purpose that means that if they keep doing what they’re doing, and never give up, success is inevitable.”
At any rate, I called her out, and was blocked for my pains. It’s certainly true that hard work and consistency are jolly useful traits in the entrepreneurial game. But it’s certainly not true that if you work hard and consistently, success will inevitably follow. We tend to believe that because we’re told it’s true, and it’s reinforced by case studies from successful entrepreneurs.
But it’s not hard to find examples where it doesn’t work out that way. We all know people who’ve worked tirelessly in their chosen field, and never achieved the success they hoped for. Luck is part of it, but not the whole story. Instead, I’m going to suggest a couple of super boring factors help.
First, careful business planning. Work out what you’re planning to do, how long it will take, what it will cost, and where your profits will arise. I keep meeting the owners of small businesses where the process by which they can make profit is super unclear to me. And possibly to them too. There’s absolutely no point plugging away at your business idea if it will never make money. It might be a wonderful and worthwhile hobby. But it’s not a business.
Second, test trading. Wherever possible, try your idea out on a small scale. Test trading is why I now have an Etsy store. I tested the theory, I started out on a very small scale using materials I largely scrounged. After two months of test trading I had working figures to say that if I invested in the machine and materials I needed, I’d be back in profit in less than a year. That meant that my business plan for the store was extremely robust. If I’d needed to borrow money for set up, I’d have been in a good position to do so.
Third, frugality. I don’t need to match my previous income because I saved money in that job, I saved money when I left that job and I’ve lived very carefully since then. My business might not make much money, but it’s 100% mine; I don’t have to share my not very much with a set of investors.
Fourth, review and reflection. No, of course things don’t go according to the business plan. In my business plan, my business and its income grow steadily month on month. In my life, I have hopeless months and wildly successful months. Some of my assumptions were wrong; possibly most of them. But because I took the time to write down those assumptions, I now have something to measure against.
Fifth, flexibility. I don’t get all my income from one stream. I’m continuously aiming to develop new sources of income. I’m not committed to a particular money making dream; I keep an eye out for different ways people make money and try to learn about them. Because the opportunity just around the corner might be the best one of all.
Now, none of this is as enticing as the idea that if you work hard and believe in yourself, success is inevitable. So my Facebook acquaintance blocked me because she ‘didn’t need such negativity in her life’. If that’s negativity, I’ll have a plateful, thanks.