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'Traditional' advice instills fear, thwarts ventures

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Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, 8:49 p.m.

What's really stopping you from starting your own business? Lack of money? Unsure of what business to start? Struggling with what to do first?

According to Tom Volkar, founder of CoreU Coaching — who has helped hundreds to start their own businesses — the factor that holds most people back from starting their own businesses is fear. Volkar believes that part of that fear is because of traditional advice that heavily emphasizes the high failure rate of start-ups. That, coupled with a spectrum of other fears, holds many back.

“Too much traditional advice is not the advice that early stage entrepreneurs need,” Volkar said. “What they often need instead is advice on what steps to take or what business to launch. Why worry about a business plan when you aren't even sure what business to start?”

Lots of people, Volkar said, fear losing the security of employee benefits and a steady paycheck. “But it goes deeper than that,” explained Volkar. “That's just a surface excuse. By digging deeper, you see the real fear. People tell me they are afraid to tell their spouse. They wonder if they have what is takes to succeed. They wonder what people will think of them for quitting a good job in this economy.”

Volkar recalls a woman who wanted to start her own business, but her employer was in a fast-growth mode and she held a key position. She was afraid of what her boss and co-workers would think of her if she left. She was putting her employer's well-being ahead of her own desire to start a business. Volkar said the woman estimated she'd need six months to actually transition herself out of the company and into self-employment. But within a month of being coached, she had mustered the courage to resign, and two weeks later, she introduced her business. Just one year later, she is calling her own shots in her own firm. She is making more money, working far fewer hours, and spending more time with her family.

If fear of one kind or another is holding you back from starting your own business, what can you do to unjam your logjam?

First, question the belief beneath the fear. For example, if you fear giving up security, then you must believe that entrepreneurs earn less than employees. Some do, some don't. Which camp will you be in?

Be honest with yourself about what you don't know, and ask for help. No one starts a business knowing all the answers. Meet with small-business owners in the field you want to start who are already successful. Ask them what initial steps they'd recommend. You will be surprised at their willingness to help you.

Act now, even if it's a baby step. By doing what you can do now, you will create momentum. You will increase your self-confidence. You will get clearer on the right business for you.

Volkar stresses the urgency of taking action: “Delay is incredibly costly. You can't just sit there and figure this out. In business, we call it the corridor principle, which states, ‘you can't really see what doors of opportunity will open until you get up and walk down the hall.'”

If you've read this far, you are probably yearning to start your own business. Don't let fear keep its hold on you. Take one step — whether it's small, such as reading a book about finding your niche, a medium-size step such as engaging a coach, or gargantuan like setting up a meeting with your first prospective client. Action will create momentum and your future.

Chris Posti, president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh, is author of “The Shortest Distance between You and Your New Job,” available on Email your questions to her at



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