Top nine scariest things about running a business

It’s October – the month of all things scary and ugly. But let’s face our fear and count down the top nine scariest parts of running a business. (Why nine? Why not?)

#9: There goes your social life

Owning or running a business can either boost your social life (there are endless business functions and networking events to attend) or kill it. With all the time intensive obligations required of an entrepreneur, business owner or key business leader, it leaves little time for “fun” as it was once defined. Friends and family who aren’t involved in the business may not understand what you do – or care. They just see that you aren’t around anymore and if you are, there’s a good chance you are answering texts, emails and taking calls  – all of which is interpreted as ignoring them, and that can be pretty scary.

#8: Till death do us part

The same goes for a marriage or committed personal relationship. Owning or running a business is a challenge because there’s a good chance your partner won’t entirely “get” what you are doing or why. They may only be on the receiving end of your late nights, business commitments, business relationship building, and crazy ideas. Laser focus on business documents, employees, trends and numbers may oftentimes come first. With intensive obligations on your back, it leaves little time for “love” as defined before jumping in with the sharks. If you aren’t good at time management, communication and romance, this can definitely help to create a haunted house.

#7: Risky business

Do you have a good lawyer, legal counsel, or perhaps a risk officer on your payroll? The risks of doing business include situations and threats you can’t even imagine, but a trained risk officer can – and a good lawyer has probably seen it all. Get them on your side in a hurry so that you aren’t blind-sided by the unknown – like a workman’s comp case, the loss of an employee to injury, or an outrageous accusation (people make up the darndest things.) The speed of social media slander can bring you to your knees – and what if a car drives into your lobby on accident because your elderly client/customer stepped on the gas and not the brake while parking? (Yes, that happened to us.) Do you have an evacuation plan in place, in case of a threat in the building or a fire? Do you have “key man insurance” in case your business owner or C-Suite execs are hurt, disabled or worse? The unknown is one of the scariest parts of throwing your doors open for business.

#6: Clients and customers

Who are your clients or customers and where do they come from? How do you get repeat business and a growing client base? If you run a capacity-based business (wherein you have seats to fill) – how do you keep that waiting room or restaurant full? The schedule booked? If you have a store – how do you keep the traffic coming in and the cash register humming? Not knowing where to find the patrons who will love, support and buy your product or service is truly scary. Without them, you don’t actually have a business now, do you? It could be a ghost town you run instead.

#5: Staffing it

Say you’ve got the million-dollar idea, the passion, the time and the money – but there’s only one of you, and help is needed. Where do you find capable, upbeat staff who understand your product, vision and culture? And once you find the right hired help to join in the business, can you afford them? And importantly, can you trust them with the keys to the store? Also critical, how do you retain those valuable staff and make them feel appreciated and involved? What if they want benefits – how do you do that? Without a great approach to human resources and the ability to make hard decisions and have hard conversations (for example, when to let someone go when job performance needs to improve) – you are left with a lot of skeletons in the closet and scary people to deal with.

#4: Government gotcha?!

I have yet to hear anyone say, “I love the government regulations in my industry.” Or, “The government is so helpful.”  No matter what you do, it’s likely that the legislation governing what you do and how you are taxed are documents written by officials without front-line experience in your industry. In the business of healthcare, it’s a daily uphill battle to stay current with what is and is not allowed, what is reimbursed and what regulations must be met or exceeded. Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act) is one of the largest pieces of legislation ever produced by this country’s elected leaders – a manifest that defines to citizens and healthcare providers alike how they will be treated, how it will be paid for and how the records will be kept, plus a lot more. Imagine if in your industry the government told you what you would be paid for a service, and that you don’t get paid until months after you’ve performed the work. Not knowing if we’ll be reimbursed for our service or be thrown in jail for not filling out the paperwork correctly is a fright night.

#3: Time to go

I love to say, “There’s time enough for everything – just not at the same time.” Business moves at the speed of light, and it’s hard to let opportunity speed by. But you have to ask yourself with honesty – do you have time to do “this” right now, whatever “this” might be? On the flip side, some of the most successful businesses were launched at inopportune times – during economic recessions, after a divorce, with small children at home, etc. But watching the clock tick by, paralyzed by fear of timing, is like living on Elm Street.

#2: Fear of Failure

The paralytic fear of failure before even starting something new is enough to stop most people. Inertia kills great ideas.

#1. Money

Without a doubt, the Number One freakiest, scariest, ugliest part of business is money. Is there ever enough? Will there be enough to get started? Will there be enough to sustain the business or grow it? Will I make a living? Will my family be protected? Is there stability in this venture? What’s the payoff and when?

It’s fun to consider the bucket list of intimidation that factor into running (and owning) a successful business. But it ultimately boils down to the intersection of time and money. Most of us have experienced life without either one – and then there are cycles when there’s time but no money, or money but no time. But that elusive pot of gold we’re after is an abundance of time and money. If you’ve found it, it means you’ve made a difference, experienced success and done something responsible with your life. Is it possible? Don’t let fear get in the way of finding out.

Categories: Management & Leadership