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I Was Afraid to Do It Alone

A young businessman stands amid a mix of items used for different businesses.

I have pretty much always wanted to own my own business. I admired the people from the stories my dad told of some of his mentors growing up who owned their own businesses in Idaho Falls, ID. Both of my grandfathers and grandmothers were also business owners, further fueling the respect I had for the idea of being an entrepreneur. For me, this started as early as high school. I even started with a few small endeavors like mowing lawns and doing odd jobs for people, but I didn’t really start my own thing for many years. I can admit it now, I was actually afraid to do so.

I was always the dreamer, but I was too afraid to put myself out there and try to make something out of nothing. To start a real company. Part of the challenge was not knowing what the business should be. I knew what I didn’t want to do, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or be, or sell. I wasn’t particularly talented in product invention nor did I have any million-dollar ideas, so a product business wasn’t really on my mind. I knew I didn’t want to be bored either, so I wanted something with change and variety.

I tried many different things as side gigs, even before that was a popular thing, but I also never really thought of those things as a full-on business. For example, I started washing windows when I was in college at UNLV, but I didn’t think about making that a business. It was just a way to make extra money as a starving college student. 

I also wanted to figure out e-commerce, so I built a very simple website and started selling princess dresses because a friend of mine worked at the company that manufactured them. The problem was, that I didn’t have the technical expertise to connect the back end of our website to the inventory controls of the manufacturer, so most of the sales I made were products they had run out of and customers would scour the web looking for them only to find them on my site, which wasn’t up to date. And, as you might imagine, they shared my disappointment that I just had to refund their money because I was simply drop-shipping from the manufacturer who was out of stock. I tried this again later by launching an Amazon Store, which didn’t last either.

I also tried doing curb and parking lot painting. I got my first partner who eventually gave up on the idea when it required some extra work and salesmanship. I also got some partners and started investing in Real Estate. That venture collapsed in 2008 when the Real Estate crisis changed the whole world, and my partners both moved away and left me hanging.

I was also drawn to jobs that were much more entrepreneurial. Primarily sales jobs where I could control my own schedule and income. That meant we had a variable income that often went from rich to poor, and back again. It is a cycle we have repeated often.

The one thing that was common throughout all of these ventures was that I wanted to create something from nothing. I wanted to be responsible for all of the decisions. I was simply too scared to go it alone. I always looked for a partner, a helper, someone better than me who could help me do it. I know some of you reading this know better. You would not want a partner, but I have always felt like I wasn’t enough to go it alone. I wanted someone to help me avoid making mistakes.

Through all these experiences, I learned one very important thing. If you are going to do something great, you must be willing to face the challenges yourself. You must find the courage to go it alone. By doing so, you realize there is no one to come and save you if things “hit the fan”, so to speak. To succeed as a business owner, you will sometimes fail, and that’s OK.

This isn’t to say that you don’t need other people, it’s a state of mind that requires you to be confident and willing to face challenges head-on. You must make the decisions, and then live with the consequences. You must find a way to succeed despite what will often feel like the whole world is conspiring to thwart your efforts. 

Each of my failures and missteps taught me something. Each time it didn’t work out, or I changed my mind, I moved closer to the right answer, and more importantly, the right knowledge to help me succeed in a future, yet unknown business opportunity. I was building a structure brick by brick. Learning along the way, preparing myself for when I was finally brave enough to go for it, facing my fears, and tackling any challenge that might come my way. 

If you want to own your own business, here are some tips that I have learned over the years. 

  1. You must be willing to stand at the end of the row. In other words, the buck stops with you!

  2. No one is coming to save you. You can figure it out. People have done it before you, so you can do it too.

  3. You either win, or you learn. When you learn, it’s a brick that becomes an important part of your full building. 

  4. People will be your greatest help, but no one cares as much as you. You must find a way. 

  5. Be flexible, and learn what you need most, or hire someone to do it. Changes will come. Be ready to pivot. 

  6. Chase that dream. Even if you fail, you’ll be glad you went for it!


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