I wrote this a couple of years ago, commenting how, with Brexit uncertainty, numbers starting a business were slowing down.. No doubt COVID-19 will also scare people on uncertainty and make them think twice about starting a business.
Seventy percent of people at that point say they are unhappy in their current jobs and a third says they would like to be starting a business. They say they have not got the capital to do so, or can’t afford to lose the regular income the job brings. They also fear they haven’t the skill sets required or cite a fear of failure. Many part-time businesses are set up as an initial step towards full time, to ease the financial tolls and gain experience on an existing salary. But swathes of these remain part-time, too hesitant to take the final steps.
Some over 45’s cite that it is too late to go starting a business but far worse is the news that 10% of 18-24-year-olds also claim it is too late. This is part of the research by The Recruit Venture Group released this month. Given that being a company owner or CEO is now in the top three childhood dream careers, it is no wonder that that third of employees are left still dreaming of starting up and dissatisfied with their lot. A very good job has been done in making starting a business aspirational, but not yet enough in making it achievable.
Necessity pushes us into starting a business
I fell into various business ventures over the years almost accidentally; chance meetings with partners, a wild idea over the kitchen table, and perhaps most notably, a start-up enforced by the absolute necessity of providing for children as a single mum. Necessity can make a wonderful motivator to get us over the fear of starting a business.
The Recruit Venture Group found that almost a third of business owners never planned on starting a business at all. We have all seen the huge rise in SilvEntrepreneurs, many motivated by necessity. Job loss and redundancy are the most usual cause for these accidental business ventures, and for women, there is also the need for finding flexible employment around motherhood. When necessity (and passion) are big enough, there is less time for fear and hesitation in starting a business.
Everyone who has ever started a business has faced issues over raising capital, ongoing funding, cash flow, and lack of regular income. We may have taken time to nail the best part of our product or service, had issues finding the right customers. We will certainly have faced challenges of anxiety, loneliness, and self-doubt and of course, we look back and say that it would have been easier without these issues.
There is plenty of advice around. We Grow Businesses, a Stevenage-based business consultancy, see growth as the way for small businesses to ensure that they are among the successful. They advise their clients to plan backward for the year ahead based on financial targets broken down into bite-size steps. They stress the importance of cash flow. But we have had a hard lesson on how to expect the unexpected.
CB Insights Analysis report 42% of businesses are failing due to a lack of marketing. When I am coaching and teaching, I meet many start-ups convinced that the sheer wonder of what they do will create sales and are shocked to find they remain undiscovered geniuses. Sales skills are also still essential especially in B2B and getting harder and harder to find. Strong customer experience should now be at the heart of every business but many still struggle to understand that.
But for all the headaches, only 1% of the business owners in The Recruit Venture Group survey regretted their decision to start a business, 90% report being happier than they were than employed. Those are very telling figures. More businesses are still opening than they are closing.
My own experience tells me that there are some other factors not included in the statistics of why people follow through on childhood dreams. Given that we all lacked funding, skills, and so on to start with and given the high level of accidental business start-ups it has to be more about why individuals do or don’t take the plunge.
Desperation can indeed be a huge incentive to succeed, in the same way as a driving passion for what you do can and both counterbalance fears. Timing can have a huge effect, with personal circumstances influencing the exact time of launching. But it is also the determination, the grit and will to succeed that makes the impediments of funding or lack of skills appear to some simple problems to be conquered but insurmountable to others.
My conclusion then was that those that really, really want to badly enough in 2019 will start up and get going, whatever the challenges.
Now, COVID-19 has given people time to reflect on their lives and if they are happy at work. More are facing redundancy. They have also had time to solve some of the challenges that have held them back. I see my social media feeds full of people starting a business.
It may still be scary, but we are still keeping on doing it now.
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