Thinking About Starting Your Own Business?

A Change Strategy for Budding Entrepreneurs

By Michael Wilkinson, Managing Director, Leadership Strategies, Inc.

"I've been thinking about taking the leap and starting my own business. I'm ready to be on my own and, from talking to potential customers, I'm pretty sure that I would be successful. It's scary though. I have a family. I have bills. Suppose I don't make it? Suppose I take the leap and it doesn't work out? Suppose I can't get enough customers? It's a big risk. I'm just not sure I should do it. Should I take the plunge? What do you think? Should I or shouldn't I?"

Sound familiar? As an entrepreneur myself, I frequently have the opportunity to speak with people who are considering venturing out and starting their own business. Invariably at some point in the conversation, we reach this point. I think of it as "the cliff." Budding entrepreneurs often see themselves standing at the edge of the cliff looking at a 20-25 foot leap to get to the other side – entrepreneur heaven. If they leap and don't make it, they fall into the abyss and are never heard from again – entrepreneur failure. Should they take the leap? Should they risk it?

My response to entrepreneurs facing the cliff is always the same: I try to bless them with the verbal equivalent to a cold slap in the face.

"Stop it! Just stop it. It sounds like you are asking the wrong question. That question inevitably leads to fear and self-doubt, and usually gets you no where. So stop it. Don't ever ask yourself that question again."

Then, in nicer terms, I offer a different approach.

"Instead of asking, 'Should I or shouldn't I?' consider asking yourself two questions that I hope you will find more helpful. The first question is, 'What is my bridge for change?' I believe you are seeing a deep and dangerous chasm between where you are and where you want to be and you believe you have to risk leaping over the chasm. Suppose, instead of a chasm, there was a bridge and all you had to do was walk across it?

"The question now becomes, 'What is your bridge for change? What would make the change comfortable for you?' For some people, they need to have their first customer or a group of customers who have made commitments. Other people just need to have their business plan in place. Others need to have the support of their spouse. For me, my bridge for change was I needed to have 6 months of my house payment in the bank. I needed the security of knowing that, no matter what happened, my family would have a roof over its head. So, what is your bridge for change?"

Typically at this point in the conversation I can see the wheels turning as entrepreneurs begin thinking about their bridge.

"Once you have figured out your bridge for change, you can now consider the second, and perhaps more important, question, 'Are you willing to do what it takes to build the bridge?' Are you willing to put in the time, the sweat, the extra work, the sacrifice or whatever is required to build your bridge? If your answer is yes, then great. Get going! Figure out the steps it is going to take to build your bridge for change and get started. However, if your answer is no, then that's fine too. You have answered your original question. Should you or shouldn't you? If you are not willing to do what it takes to build your bridge, the answer is clearly no and you don't have to ever consider that question again!"

You can learn more about strategic planning techniques for your business in our online strategy course, Springboard Online!. If you would like assistance in developing your strategic plan, you may be interested in looking at our three strategic planning packages.

About the Author
Michael Wilkinson is the Managing Director of Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company, and a much sought after trainer, facilitator and speaker. He is a Certified Master Facilitator and a Certified Professional Facilitator. As a past president of the Southeast Association of Facilitators and a board member of the International Institute of Facilitation, Michael is a national leader in the facilitation industry. You can get more tips from either of Michael's books, The Secrets of Facilitation or The Secrets to Masterful Meetings. You can receive a signed copy through our website.

Contact Us About Facilitation Training and Services »