Q: After years of dreaming about starting my own business, I finally took plunge a little over a year ago. To say least, my dream quickly became a nightmare. The business didn't do nearly as well as I had hoped. I ran out of money within six months and had to take out a second mortgage on my house just to keep things going. I have now closed business and am left with a pile of bills that will probably put me in personal bankruptcy. I don't mean to take it out on you, but instead of telling people how great having your own business is all time you should also warn them that starting a business is not easy and can be devastating when things go wrong. -- Gene K.
A: Gene, I hope that I have never given anyone impression that having your own business is a walk in park. To contrary, I'm like proverbial Chicken Little when it comes to warning readers of obstacles and pitfalls that await those considering entrepreneurial plunge.
To quote myself from a column I wrote earlier this year, "If it was easy, my friend, everybody would do it."
Just to make sure we're in agreement, let me reiterate standard warnings once again. Starting a business is incredibly hard work. It takes long hours and deep pockets. It demands unbridled passion and unquestioned commitment. It requires that you give of yourself until you often feel there is nothing left to give. And sometimes, even after you've done all that you can do and given all that you can give, business fails.
Blood, sweat, and tears can only carry you so far in business world. Good intentions and grand ideas won't pay office rent. You can not make payroll with Monopoly money.
I certainly don't mean to make light of your situation. In fact, I know exactly how you feel. I failed so miserably my first time in business that I swore I would never think about working for myself again. All I wanted to do was to find a nice, secure 9-to-5 job that provided me with a nice steady paycheck. I yearned for opportunity to grow fat and happy on someone else's payroll for a change.
I never again wanted to have to think about customers or employees or withholding taxes or accounts receivable or anything else even remotely associated with being in business.
I just wanted to crawl in a hole and die because my business had failed, and in my All-American, macho male, "you are what you do" brain that meant that I was a failure, too.
Getting over failure of a business can be extremely difficult, especially if you are one of those entrepreneurs (like I was) who wrongly relates success or failure of a business to success or failure of you as a person.
The best way that I know of to get over failure of a business (and deep feelings of personal failure that go along with it) is to do an autopsy of business to help find out exactly what went wrong. Only by discovering our weakness can we build on our strengths (Yogi Berra eat your heart out).