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Ask Dave

Fear of Starting a Business

Leslie is hesitant to start a business even though she's had some clients here and there. Dave soothes Leslie's fears and encourages her to move forward with the idea.

QUESTION: Leslie in Los Angeles is unemployed and has been sitting on a business idea for two years. She is hesitant to start the business even though she’s had some clients here and there. Dave soothes Leslie’s fears and encourages her to move forward with the idea.

ANSWER: When you learned to ride a bike, did you fall over? I fell a lot because I was kind of klutzy. Eventually, after some skinned knees and busted elbows and a busted nose once, I finally learned to keep that thing upright. That’s how you do it. That’s how life works. That’s how you learn to walk, by the way. No one carried you. You fell on your butt a few times and a few times on your face. You got back up, didn’t you?

When you start a business, you’re going to fail. You may not completely fail, but a lot of what your bright ideas are probably aren’t that good. You’re going to screw up. Just go ahead and get ready for that. It’s kind of fun. It’s part of the journey.

You’ve got no overhead. You’ve just to get your butt in gear and go do it. You take them through that horrible FAFSA thing… Good God, man. That’s the federal government on steroids. Anybody who can fill that thing out—it’s unbelievable. And help them get the best deal on college because California has these free freaking community colleges. It’s unbelievable. Or almost free. It’s fabulous. Help them find state schools and help them find the scholarships that are out there that kids are leaving on the table—not picking up the money. You go help them find all that stuff, you’re worth your weight in gold. Why haven’t you done this? You’ve got to go do this tomorrow.

You’re going to screw it up. You’re going to fall over. You’re going to get another scratch over your business eyebrow. You’re going to get a scab on your business knee. And your business elbow is going to get a piece of gravel stuck in it. But learn to ride the freaking business bike. Go do it. It’s fun. You’re not going to do anything if you don’t do something.

If you think you’re going to go out there and be perfect from day one and never make a mistake, you’re going to be really let down in yourself. I’m vastly successful. We have 350 employees, an international brand, the third largest talk radio show in North America, and I’m on my fourth New York Times major best-selling book. I have made all of that on about 10% of my ideas, and I have survived the other 90% of my ideas. Ninety percent of the ideas in this organization suck. They’re awful. You just don’t know about those unless you happen to be the customer of one of them—God help you—and we had to start over. We’re not doing things the way we used to do them. Why? Because we didn’t do them as well as we do them now. Five years from now, I hope we’re doing them better than we’re doing them now.

Failure is a part of the deal. It’s course correction. Total failure only happens if you have set the finances up in such a way that if one thing doesn’t work, you go broke. Don’t put all the chips on one hand of poker. Always hold some back. Right now, you’ve really got nothing to lose. You’re what’s known as unemployed. You’ve got all this energy and skill and talent. Don’t sit on it.

You’re going to do this, and you’re going to call me back in a year and tell me how much money you’re making. I want to hear. I’m going to send you a copy of our book EntreLeadership on how to start and run a business. It’ll help you with this stuff. You need to read every chapter in that book, and you need to read some other books on business. There’s a bunch of them. Get some good ones.

You don’t have anything to lose. It’s not like you called me up and said you want to put $2 million in a chicken farm. You’re just opening up a website. You can’t mess this up. Go for it.