Myth No. 1: You Need a Lot of Money to Start a Business
That just isn’t so. There are plenty of businesses you can start with virtually no money. With most of the many businesses I started, the total investment was less than $2,000. Some I started with literally no money at all.
You can sometimes even get your customers-to-be to finance you. This is how I started my Cape Cod map business. I visited the Highway Division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to get public domain road plans of the region. Then, I had a graphics company shrink the oversized maps to a usable size. Next, I arranged for a local newspaper to typeset the names of the roads (this was years before the advent of PCs). Then, I had my then 13-year-old brother retrace the roads and the paste the names of the streets onto a mockup of the map.
Finally, I hit the road. I approached local merchants with the mock-up of my map, which had a suggested retail price of $1 each. I suggested that the merchants pre-order 100 copies of the map for just $50, allowing them a $50 profit if they sold out all maps. As an extra incentive, I gave each participating business a free ad to be printed on the rear of the map. One out of every 10 businesses I approached signed up for my suggested deal on the spot, and over half prepaid, incentivized by a small discount. So I had the money in advance to pay for printing the maps, and my business was successfully off and running.
Myth No. 2: It Takes a Lot of Time to Start a Business
I conceived the idea for my Cape Cod map business on a Thanksgiving weekend while I was on winter vacation from college. By the time I returned to school after the holidays – just five weeks later – I had produced the mock-up of the map, had sold every square inch of advertising space on the rear of the map, had sent the final version of the map to the printer, and had already made a nice, tidy profit.
If you think this is the only business that you can successfully start in just a few days, think again. Every single summer vacation from college, I started a new business. Some summers, when I was feeling especially bored and restless, I’d start more than one business.
Related: 10 Myths About Entrepreneurs
One year it was bicycle rentals. I went out and bought 50 cheap, used bicycles and rented them out to summer visitors as Bob’s Rent-A-Bike.
Another summer it was boat brokerage and trading. I would seek out undervalued used boats that were for sale, negotiate the best price I could, and buy them for cash on the spot. Then I would clean up the boats, maybe even paint them or do some minor repair, boost the price, and sell them a few days later.
Another summer I started a house painting business called, simply, College Painters. Actually, I was the only college student – most of the painters I hired were teachers on summer vacation.
Myth No. 3: You Need a Lot of Experience to Start a Business
I have rarely started a business in which I have had any directly relatable experience. Besides, what fun would that be? It would just be repetitive and boring. I am amused when people tell me that I shouldn’t be starting out in a business I know nothing about. “What a ridiculous idea!” they exclaim, or “Good luck,” inferring they don’t believe I have any chance of all of succeeding.
I quickly found out that by going into a businesses I knew nothing about, I could easily make some very dumb mistakes. But I also found out something else. I discovered that everyone else in business, including all the established players, make plenty of dumb mistakes too. They just made different kinds of mistakes, and maybe not quite as many. Furthermore, they sometimes all make the same mistakes and they consider it “industry standard operating procedure.”
Seriously, it doesn’t hurt to have some experience in any business you go into. But for many businesses, experience is not necessary, and you can usually pick up the experience you really need along the way. Besides, any business can be learned, especially if you break it down into digestible pieces. The most complex computer in the world, for example, is just based on simple on/off binary signals. This means that if you stick your finger in a live electrical circuit and receive a shock, you understand the core of how computer hardware and software is built.
I find there are things that are generally more important than experience in almost any business. There are a few key business principles that I will get into later. If you can master these, they will go a long way to helping insure your business success, even if you don’t have a lot of experience.
Myth No. 4: You Shouldn’t Start a Business While You Have a Full-Time Job
For most people, I recommend you keep your current job until your new business becomes established (that is, unless you are starting an unusually complicated business, like a commercial spacecraft engineering firm). Even if your business needs to be staffed throughout the day, you may be better off, initially, keeping your own day job and perhaps hiring hourly help to staff the firm during your working hours, while you do the more critical work at night.
You are usually better off developing a small business slowly and carefully. First, study how to run a small business. Then, plan the specifics of your own business slowly and carefully. When you finally do launch your business, I recommend starting out as small as you possibly can, testing, analyzing, revamping, and testing again, until you are ready to really roll it out.
These days, with the power and opportunities that exist on the Internet, and the many service business opportunities available, it makes more sense than ever before to run a business on a part-time basis. Even a larger, more complex enterprise can be conducted part time.
Many years ago, my grandfather, also named Bob Adams, started a shoe factory in Lewiston, Maine – not a small undertaking. He enlisted two partners, and while he co-managed his shoe company, he also retained his existing job as national shoe manager of another shoe firm. He even got his boss to loan him money to help start the new business.
Myth No. 5: You Need a Great Idea to Start a Business
I would say this is the most damaging myth of all about starting a small business. In fact, the greater you think your idea is, the greater the chances for risk and failure. Generally, you are better off avoiding wild, new, exciting ideas. Your chances of creating the first successful space shuttle to Mars isn’t that feasible.
Your chances of success are much better if you take an existing business concept and refine or modify it in such as way that it is meaningful to customers. Look at some of the biggest and most exciting businesses of our times, such as Facebook, for example. Friendster and other social media sites had the same business model, but Facebook made it much more appealing. Microsoft wasn’t by any means the first company to develop operating systems for PCs, but they became the standard by getting IBM to adopt their system. Walmart wasn’t the first large self-service discount retailer, but they put together a vastly more efficient business model than their competitors. The examples go on and on.
Just about Anyone Can Start a Small Business
You don’t need a lot of money to start a business.
You don’t need a lot of time to start some businesses.
You don’t necessarily need a lot of experience.
You don’t need to quit your full-time job.
You don’t need a great idea.
Don’t let the myths about small business hold you back. It’s probably a lot easier than you think to start a successful small business. Just about anyone can do it, if they have the desire.
So if you really want to start a business, get going on your plans today.