That’s a great shame because it means they’re turning their back on opportunities that could have significant benefits for themselves and those they love and care about.
In reality however the fear they feel is no more than worry about what may happen in the future, rather than what will happen. The way to control this fear is to negotiate a way towards your goals that makes you comfortable.
So how do you not give 110% of yourself to your start-up in the first year or three of its life? Well, thanks to new technologies, there’s actually never been a better time to create a successful business where you remain very much in charge.
But you do need to follow some basic ground rules. The following are rules I’ve learned through my own 20 years of experience and which helped me escape paying too high a personal price for success.
1. Create a vision for your business for the first three years
The clearer you are about what you want to achieve, the easier it will be to understand what you need to do to make that happen. Things can get complicated very easily, require more resources than you anticipated and potentially take over your life.
But when you understand that creating a business is a process, you stop expecting overnight success, and you give yourself time to manage and actually enjoy the journey.
Sounds simple enough but it’s something that most business owners really struggle with. So having a vision for your business and how it will develop and grow is essential, not just for success but also to refrain from pushing yourself unnecessarily hard.
2. Decide what level of commitment is right for you
How many working hours each day or week would make you happy? What times are best for you? And what are the “red lines” in your personal or family life that you just won’t cross?
Understand and accept your boundaries even if it means taking a little longer to get to where you want to be compared to someone with fewer commitments, more time or greater resources.
3. Start small
Pursuing big, bold business ideas is great but they require more time and more effort to make them work. So if you want to stay in control of your start-up business, steer clear from being too ambitious too soon. Be clear about what you want your business to do for you. This will prevent you being swept along and moving at a quicker pace than you’re comfortable with.
Instead, go for a niche in a well-defined market. Then use highly focused marketing to control the demand you generate. That way you won’t be swamped trying to fulfil more orders than you can cope with.
4. Go for a business idea that makes good use of technology
This means setting up a business that operates largely online. Don’t get involved with a brick and mortar business where you’re expected to turn up at a physical location at a particular time if that’s going to be too much of a commitment for you.
5. Minimise your overheads as much as possible
This is another reason not to have a brick and mortar business that involves paying rent, rates and countless other bills. The more money you have to pump into your business, the less control you’ll have over when you work and when you don’t.
Since many businesses can be run with little more than a computer, a phone and a desk, your own home can make a great headquarters. Not only will this help you cut down on costs but it will also mean that you can manage other areas of your life more easily.
6. Avoid holding too much stock
Find suppliers who are happy to work with small orders. For a small business, too much stock can be a killer. That was certainly my experience when running a small fashion catalogue.
7. Unless it’s absolutely essential, don’t employ any staff
By not having staff you’ll avoid not just a major cost but also the emotional commitment that comes from knowing you have to pay someone’s salary each week or month. Instead when you need an extra pair of hands, use freelancers and part-time staff.
8. Aim to work ‘on’ your business rather than ‘in’ it
As much as possible, don’t do too much of the time-consuming day-to-day work of your business yourself by taking on a managerial or project management role. This may mean that sometimes you won’t make as much profit but you will retain more control.
9. Systemise and automate your business
This will improve efficiency and minimise the amount of work you have to do. By using checklists, templates and auto-responders you can free up chunks of time rather than having to reinvent the wheel over and over again.
10. Get the help you need
You don’t have to do everything on your own so gather a support team around you at a personal and professional level. Family and friends could help with childcare or even be willing do some work while a good professional team can provide essential mentoring and guidance that will give you confidence in areas where you’re not yet strong.
11. Create your own definition of success and be true to it
Don’t get carried away once your business is on track to becoming established. Assess every opportunity that comes along to see what impact it may have on your ability to stay in control of what you’re doing. If the trade-off doesn’t work in your favour, don’t go with it. If it doesn’t feel good, it’s not success.
Follow these basic guidelines, and you’ll find that setting up a business doesn’t have to involve an “all or nothing” approach.
We’d love to hear how you’ve managed to prevent your start-up from overwhelming you. Tell us in the comments section below.
Maite Barón is author of the multi-award winning book ‘Corporate Escape: the Rise of the New Entrepreneur’ and the co-founder of The Corporate Escape™, a consultancy specialised in helping professionals escape the rat race, rekindle their passion for life and reinvent themselves. She’s also a motivational speaker and contributor to the Huffington Post, Global Banking and Finance Review and Entrepreneur