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Five things you have to stop saying to a new entrepreneur

Yesterday I was reading a thread on Facebook where a young woman was asking advice on what to study that will help her secure a bright future. CA, HR, IT: All acronyms that made an appearance. These acronyms made an appearance 15 years ago when I was thinking about my future; let’s call them the “Never-Dies”.

A wise man gave the advice every young person should get (or at least so I believe). He told the woman to study anything she is passionate about but then include basic business management and other subjects in her coursework as this will give her much of what she needs to start her own business and create employment one day. One lady fervently replied, “Oh please, not more start-ups; there’s no money.”

Why your small business might fail

I couldn’t help but think of this naysayer as being short-sighted – imagine having her as your partner or mother and trying to stay excited about your dream to start your own business.

This made me think of some of the things people say to a loved one at the beginning of their journey into entrepreneurship that are much better left unsaid.

#1 You’ve got a family/responsibilities. Can you afford to take the risk? Maybe you should wait five years

Pregnant tummy

This is probably the thing your budding entrepreneur has thought about most. They know all the risks, but be sure, they’ve weighed it up against the benefits of self-employment and came to the conclusion that this is the perfect time. Right now is the best time, there will always be reasons not to do something courageous.

What to say instead: Go for it, I can’t think of anyone more qualified/talented to do what you are planning. I’m in your corner.

#2 Oh I saw something like that online

Talk about an instant buzz kill. No idea is truly original; it’s about improving the service offering or value for money.

What to say instead: I’ve got some websites or articles I want to send you, maybe it will aid in identifying your unique selling points and potential weaknesses. I’d love to sit and brainstorm these talking points with you.

#3 How are you going to market it? Isn’t the market saturated, I’ve seen a lot of similar offerings

too many options with remotes it seems

Another one of the aspects your loved one has probably consistently thought about. Chances are they have built up some reputation, knowledge, and a bit of a network working in the industry before deciding to make this leap and are bargaining on that reputation to get the business started.

What to say instead: Have you gone through all of your contacts to fill them in on what you’re doing now? Why not set up a lunch meeting with X from Y company? I think there can be some synergy between what you guys want to do.

#4 Be realistic, because you are new you should price lower than your competition to get customers

There really isn’t a worse piece of advice you can give a new entrepreneur. Pricing as you enter the market makes all the difference and sets up the business for what level of increases in future and market acceptance of these changes.

What to say instead: Your price seems a little low. Have you priced your own time and labour high enough? Or: Well done on pricing, it seems to be priced just right. I’m excited for you!

#5 It’s not the right economic climate

Time tunnel

Whether people are spending money or not, there will always be a thousand reasons not to start your own business. Your loved one knows this but feels confident enough about their offering to still take the leap.

What to say instead: You have clearly thought this through. I am sure that you will chisel away until you find the perfect market position.

The above points are valid when it comes to those individuals who have thought things through, written great business plans, lined up financing if needed, thought about cash flow to stay afloat; basically those who are on the way to success. Frankly, you have no right to rain on a loved one’s parade because you do not possess an entrepreneurial spirit.

The reality check new entrepreneurs need

However, in certain cases you can legitimately be concerned and raise these questions. One such case would be when a loved one is retrenched and out of necessity starts talking about starting a random business with pension money. Your loved one is not prepared, has not done the necessary research and will likely fail, so you should be able to speak up, especially if your financial security is also at risk. The advice stating that you shouldn’t quit your day job while starting your own business remains true. Encourage your loved one to look for permanent employment in the meantime and take the required time to plan their business.

Business is tough, what your new entrepreneur needs is support and a sounding board, not  a scared, Negative Nelly.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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