Uncertainty – Why You Shouldn’t Wait For ‘The Right Time’ To Start A Business

Tom Dempster

Tom Dempster

If ever there was a year to epitomize the word ‘uncertainty’, it’s 2020. 

In this article, we’ll share a perspective on why uncertainty shouldn’t prevent you from pursuing your dreams and starting your own business.

There’s nothing more to be said about 2020. There is no value I can add on this topic – no matter what I write, someone else will already have said it. The coronavirus. Natural disasters. Mass unemployment. Murder hornets (come on – murder hornets?!). And it’s only August.

The complete upheaval we’ve all experienced this year does bring me onto a tangential point, though. I want to talk about uncertainty. Perhaps one of the only certainties in life – and in business – is that uncertainty will always be present.

(To be clear, this article will only speak to people who have flirted with the idea of running their own business or going the freelance route. If you’ve never thought about it (and never will do), then I’m not trying to convince you that you should! However, I have had conversations with friends and former colleagues who have simply decided that “it isn’t the right time” to start their own business. If you’ve had similar thoughts and said similar things, then this article is for you.)

‘Play the ball where it lands’

Although this has been an unprecedented year in my lifetime for uncertainty, I hadn’t actually given the topic much thought until a few weeks ago. It arose in an interview we did with the International Business Times as part of a feature on how the coronavirus has affected startups. As our conversation approached its conclusion, the journalist asked if we had any regrets, and if we would still have started our business had we known COVID-19 was lurking around the corner. 

The question actually took me aback for a couple of seconds and I struggled to convey an answer. In some ways, I rejected the premise of the question. I don’t think it benefits us to re-run previous decisions over and over in our heads. When you’re considering any big decision – whether it’s moving house, changing jobs, starting a family or starting a business – you make your decision with the facts and knowledge you have available at the time. If you’ve thought it through, weighed up the probabilities and were happy with your decision, then you can’t kick yourself later on. 

Essentially, it boils down to this – if you trust your decision-making process, then internally, you know you would have made the same decision again with the same set of facts at your disposal. And to use a golf analogy, once you’ve played your shot, you’ve got to play the ball where it lands.

The false safety net of employment?

After telling the journalist that we had no regrets about launching True Boost, her question – a completely legitimate one, I might add – gnawed away at me in subsequent days. 

We often place a safety net on a full-time job. There is a tendency to reject entrepreneurship and innovation in favor of the supposed safety and security of a solid 40 hours per week of employment. Yet here in America, millions have been made unemployed in the midst of the coronavirus. 

There are obviously risks to be taken in starting your own business or going freelance; but shouldn’t we also acknowledge there is some level of uncertainty in remaining as an employee and not being in control of your destiny?

I have worked with several people who would make wonderful business owners. They possess all the required qualities to make it on their own – diligent, creative, self-motivated and knowledgeable. Yet over the years, some of these people have cited the same phrase as their reasoning for staying at their full-time job: it isn’t the right time.

Newsflash: There will never be a ‘right time’

It can be easy to talk ourselves out of anything, often citing reasons that sometimes we have no control over. But if you’re waiting for the perfect environment to present itself before you start your own business, I can assure you that the perfect environment doesn’t exist. You will always find a reason not to launch.

My advice is this. If you have an idea and you think you can execute it, try and find a way to make it happen. There are so many ways you can make it work – perhaps your idea will start as something you’ll work on in your spare time. Irrespective of your industry, I’d argue there have never been so many avenues to get your business off the ground. 

Think about your existing connections in your industry; think about the way the Internet has brought all of us closer together, and made products/services from around the world more accessible; think about the ease of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising across search and social channels; and of course, in the long run, think about how an effective SEO strategy can put you in front of your customers at the top of organic search results (yes, I’m aware of my bias on that final one).

My argument here is not that people should take unnecessary risks and throw away things they’ve worked hard for in pursuit of an impossible entrepreneurial dream. Instead, I’m saying that if you’ve ever thought about starting your own business, the opportunities are there for you. 

Remember, you can’t control the external environment. You can’t know that a pandemic, a recession or another potentially devastating event is going to take place. But you can be in control of your own environment. As a business owner, freelancer or self-employed individual, you’ve got an element of control that you don’t have as an employee. You can innovate. You have a direct influence on your own success. In uncertain times, knowing that you have that level of control is actually reassuring.

Why running a business isn’t for everyone

Like the big life decisions I mentioned earlier, it’s important for us to weigh up the pros and cons of our individual situations before jumping in head-first to anything. That includes running a business. 

It can be overwhelming and it does require a different mindset from simply being an employee. A significant part of me wants to argue that you’ll never know how you’ll react until you try it, but I’m not in everyone else’s shoes here. You have to know yourself – know your personality and know your capability – and make your judgment accordingly. 

Additionally, as I said at the outset, there are those for whom entrepreneurship sounds like a complete nightmare. They are happy with their choices, happy with their life, happy with a full-time job and see no need to rip it up and change it. If you’ve never had the inclination to run a business, then even if outsiders think you’d excel at it, why would you?

There are risks involved with self-employment. You’re totally reliant on yourself – and eventually, your team members – for success. That requires an adjustment. It’s a complete culture shock at first. 

But if you do have that itch – if you do have something at the back of your mind, and you’ve wondered what it’s like to run your own business – please, give it some serious consideration. It is definitely a huge jump. Weigh up the pros and cons. See if there’s a way you can mitigate the risks of self-employment. Try and give yourself the opportunity to make it work.

If you can’t justify it – because you’ve weighed up the probabilities and there are factors that mean the odds of success would not be in your favor – then obviously, don’t do it. 

Your circumstances might change in the future. I can assure you that the circumstances around you will change –  and that’s why you shouldn’t cite external forces as a reason not to start a business.

So, please – whatever you do, don’t say to yourself that “it isn’t the right time”. Uncertainty is a certainty. 

The right time doesn’t exist. 

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