Dealing With Fear When Starting a Business

Cliff Ennico on

"I was laid off from a corporate job a couple of years ago.

"I tried finding another job, but there was nothing out there for someone older than 50.

"A few months ago, I learned about a local retail business that was for sale. With the help of a business broker, I made an offer, and the seller accepted it. We hired lawyers and prepared documentation, and I got a license from the state for one of the product lines the store was carrying.

"We were scheduled to close last week, but I found I just couldn't go through with it. Nothing seemed wrong with this business, and everyone -- including my spouse -- told me it was a good thing to do.

"But I just froze at the last minute. After years of working in corporations, I just couldn't see myself as a shopkeeper. The risks involved just scared the heck out of me.

"Needless to say, there are a few people who are angry with me right now. I will forfeit my deposit (10 percent of the purchase price) and will probably have to pay the broker's fee. I'm also not sure what the next step of my life will be right now.


"What do you think? Was I just being a baby about this? It's easy to tell someone to man up when you don't have to face the consequences."

I don't think this reader is a "baby," although I would have counseled him to give in to his fears before putting a significant amount of money at risk as he appears to have done.

At the end of the day, any entrepreneurial venture involves a certain amount of risk. No matter how much research and due diligence you do, no matter how much tire kicking you do, no matter how many experts you consult (including me), you never have 100 percent perfect information before you have to make a go/no-go decision. If I had to pick the biggest difference between working for yourself and working for an employer, this is it.

I myself know what this reader went through. About 30 years ago, I left a large Wall Street law firm and struck out on my own in a solo practice in the wilds of Connecticut. For almost a decade, I was accustomed to wearing thousand-dollar suits, riding a train to work each day, having investment bankers return my phone calls and seeing deals I was working on featured prominently in The Wall Street Journal every day.


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