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The Biggest Obstacle in Starting Your Own Business

Starting your own business in California is an exciting adventure and more common than you might think.  In California, 99.8% of businesses are small businesses and they employ 7 million people (SBA, 2018).  Many businesses fail before they ever get to the stage of hiring employees and while some of these failures may be due to unforeseen circumstances, there is one hurdle which proves to be the biggest obstacle for the solopreneur in starting their own business – themselves.

“The Way We See the Problem is the Problem”

– Stephen Covey, DRE

I enjoyed reading Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®, and I recommend reading it along with First Things First on your path to growing or starting your own business.  I particularly like the above quote as it pertains greatly to starting your own business.  Our perception shapes our success (or failure) and we can ultimately become our own biggest obstacle. 

Let me explain…

Our perception of the problem is not the same as the Law of Attraction; I’m talking about getting out of your own way and not about thinking positive thoughts, although adaptive thoughts may be needed to get you over the hurdle.  As a business owner, or soon-to-be business owner starting your own business, self-doubt is undoubtedly a problem (see what I did there!).  But it goes deeper.

Let’s say you are going to start your own business in San Luis Obispo County, where I am a business consultant.  There are many small businesses here and networking opportunities.  It is also a booming part of the wine industry.  However, as the Happiest Place in America according to Oprah in 2011 and still ranking in the top 5 on the Best Places to Live in America list in 2018 by National Geographic, the rent in downtown San Luis Obispo is quite high.  That’s a problem.

But when you wrote your business plan, it included a brick-and-mortar location in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo.  Now that you are ready to put your plan into action, you realize you did not budget adequately for the extremely expensive leasing terms.  If you look at this problem and think that your business will never survive anywhere but within the bustling foot traffic of Marsh and Higuera Streets, you become unable to see any other solution.  Instead of seeing the problem at its face value (the rent is too high in this one location), some business owners go into a tailspin from their perspective of the problem (my business can’t survive anywhere else; I can’t get a loan for enough money so I’ll never start my own business; I’ve already joined the Downtown Association… you get the picture).  Instead, when we look at this problem from the outside, we can clearly see the true nature of the problem and from that start to generate ideas on workable solutions (look for a side street or simply look for other locations with foot traffic within the County: downtown Paso Robles, downtown Atascadero, downtown Pismo Beach, etc.).  When we see the initial problem presented with an extreme magnification and blow it out of proportion, the problem prevents us from taking any action to start our own business and grow it.  Suddenly we feel very “stopped” and that is a problem. 

The Biggest Obstacle in Starting Your Own Business

It is an easy trap to fall into.  By looking at a problem as a road block you won’t see the opportunity it presents to grow or start your own business.  If however you accept each problem as an opportunity for creativity in the journey of starting your own business, your view of the problem will shift in a way that will allow you to continue to take action and move your business onto its next step.  And who knows, the solution you discover may open up possibilities you never even knew about (happens ALL the time). 

Lorna Whiteaker

Lorna Whiteaker is a San Luis Obispo business consultant and coach dedicated to helping business owners get the results they want. Lorna has over 30 years of experience working with small businesses, working as an administrator in the legal industry and as an independent business consultant helping hundreds of entrepreneurs. With clear and realistic expectations of just what a business owner must deal with in running their business, big or small, she has worked with firms making 7 figures and start-ups with little more than elbow grease and a dream.