Starting a business

“Success is not for the timid. It is for those who seek guidance, make decisions and take decisive action” Jose Silva.

Starting your own business is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Having the right attitude and mindset matters. A lot. And it isn’t for everyone. In this paper we outline some of the characteristics that will make you more – and less – likely to be successful.

It’s likely if you are reading this that it’s been your dream for some time to start your own business and now you’ve done something about it. It’s the start of a journey and your dream now is to be successful.

That’s why we’ve constructed the DREAM™ sequence for you to follow: you see the experience we’ve gained from helping lots of people start and run successful businesses is that to be successful you must develop a mindset – an attitude if you like – and follow a process even when it feels uncomfortable to do so. We may ask you to ‘step outside your comfort zone’ and ‘face your fear and do it anyway’. There is a good reason for this – it works!

Here is the DREAM sequence:

D is for desire: the journey to becoming a business owner is hard…don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You must want it – really want it. Some people will say you need to be passionate and love what you do. That it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning looking forward to every day. That you are doing something worthwhile, helping others and fulfilling your purpose. None of those statements are an exaggeration. Your desire to become the best you can possibly be and a successful business owner must be the most important thing to you after family.

R is for roadmap: you wouldn’t set out on a journey to somewhere new without knowing the destination and having a map to get you there. Starting on your business journey is just the same. You need a detailed plan. I’m not talking about a written business plan that gathers dust as soon as it’s written, but a working document setting out the steps you need to take, the resources you need and the help you’ll call on. You’ll find it’s a lot like building a house and just like a house you need to build your business in the right order (groundworks before roof) and not miss any stages. The single biggest reason we find start up business owners struggle (before we get them back on track) is because they miss a step in the process that they don’t think is important or they don’t feel like completing. Don’t fall into that trap.

E is for environment: whatever your reason for starting your own business you’ll need support from your family and friends. Lots of people do it to have a more fulfilling lifestyle and more family time, so make sure your family understand the pressures you’ll face and are there to support you. There will be setbacks. Don’t go it alone.

A is for aptitude: you already have all the skills you need to run your business from an operational perpective; sure they may be some learning that you still want to do to be able to offer more services but you have the basics. The skills you don’t have yet may be around running a business, getting and keeping the clients you want (and not the ones you don’t), marketing your services, networking, and compliance with all the rules and regulations of your chosen sector or profession. Don’t worry. And as you grow in confidence and gain more clients you can add more services to your portfolio.

M is for mindset: which is where we started. A lot of us grew up with limiting beliefs around money, wealth, success, whether we are worthy and worst of all a scarcity – rather than abundance – mentality. Lose those limiting beliefs. Believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Change only happens outside your comfort zone. Be the person you want to be. Develop yourself as well as your business. Create a vision, and values, for your business based on your purpose. Become unstoppable. It takes guts and self-confidence.

There are six key mindset areas we’ve noticed start up business owners struggle with particularly if they have come from a background of being employed. Individually they can be an issue. When you have to content with more than one at a time they can be utterly crippling. However, master these mindsets and you’ll be able to break through and reach your full, genuine potential.

  1. Having a fixed outlook rather than a growth mindset

This is the really big one on this list – if this is out of alignment, all the mindset work in the world won’t do you any good, at least not in terms of achieving success and reaching your full potential. There are two ways to view the world: with a fixed outlook, or with a growth mindset.

If you find yourself encountering problems in your work, relationships, and personal life you will react in one of two ways:

  • This is just the way it is, I either have to live with it, or remove myself from the situation (i.e. find a new job, end my relationship, find new friends, give up that hobby, etc.)
  • This is just an obstacle to overcome, and once I’m on the other side of it everything will be better/easier.

In other words, we can view the world and all its inherent issues as a burden, or an opportunity. The former is known as a ‘fixed outlook’, and is characterised by the belief (conscious or otherwise) that certain things in life are set. They’re locked. We have a lot in life, we play the hand we’re dealt, a predetermined fate, a set of spots we’re unable to change because that is our nature.

The latter perspective is a ‘growth mindset’, the perception that all things can and do change, develop, and grow.

The fixed vs. growth outlook has nothing to do with how intelligent you are or what skills you have, it is purely a matter of perspective, but psychologists have argued it’s the difference between success and failure.

If your outlook is fixed, you can’t reach your potential, because there are self-imposed boundaries you never truly strive to break, simply because you believe they are unbreakable. You may find happiness and contentment, but it’s largely because you’ve achieved a level of success you’re happy with, not because you’ve become as successful as you’re capable of being.

A growth mindset holds that where there is life, there is growth, and therefore your level of success, happiness and achievement can continue to expand and evolve for the whole length of your life.

  1. Approval Seeking

Approval seeking is a habit we begin in childhood. You do something for the first time, or try something new, and you instinctively look to an authority figure to tell you you’re on the right track, reassure you, and give you confidence.

We naturally carry this habit into adulthood and often repeat the pattern with authority figures, particularly people higher up in the pecking order at work, and those we respect and admire.

And there’s nothing wrong with this – it’s an understandable impulse. The problem is that when you seek approval for everything you do in your business you’re actually undermining your own success and potential.

You never learn to trust your intuition. You continue to second guess everything you do. You’re more likely to hold yourself back and pass over opportunities for fear they’re the wrong move. And worse still, you might seek approval from the wrong people.

There’s an impulse to follow advice once it’s been given, and take the action we know those we look up to, admire, and try to emulate would approve of. Most people are instinctual people-pleasers, so once you seek advice, you’re likely to follow that advice, even if it goes against what your gut was telling you to do.

Approval seeking can easily stress you out, undermine your vision for your business and confidence in your own abilities, and lead to you making poor decisions – passing over great opportunities and taking actions that would have been better avoided.

  1. Comparing yourself with others

Closely linked to the desire for others to approve of you, is the impulse to compare yourself to other people. That constant impulse to compare ourselves to the really successful people leaves us feeling we’re not good enough. That maybe we never will be good enough.

That perhaps that level of success simply isn’t on the cards for us, because however much we have achieved, we’ve yet to achieve as much as those we aspire to emulate. What we fail to realise is that the reason these people are so inspiring to us is that they are proof there is more to achieve, there’s something to reach for.

They represent that which we wish to become ourselves, or at least the level we’d like to reach. When you reach the level of these people they may still be inspiring, but they also become peers, rather than mentors and idols.

  1. Envy

Both approval seeking and comparing yourself with others can very easily lead to another mindset issue, and that’s envy. The rise of social media has given us all a bit of an obsession with the way we appear online, and the way other people appear too. In our personal lives we may find ourselves envious of the astonishing holiday snaps our friends share, the picture-perfect selfies, the fact they’re surrounded by friends, and are hanging off the arm of a gorgeous other half.

Real life isn’t like that – these are moments not the status quo. Day-to-day, minute-to-minute, they deal with the same frustrations as anyone.

We can easily do this in business just as much, coveting the number of clients someone has, how many people are commenting on their stuff, and the awesome YouTube channel they’ve got going.

We don’t see the years of struggle that came before they made it. The situations that saw them in exactly the same position we currently find ourselves.

  1. Lack of Self-Belief

Success as a business owner hinges on your ability to believe you’re actually capable of doing it.

A lot of us start out with fears and worries that it’s going to be more than we can handle, or that we will ultimately fail. Others start out feeling supremely confident in their abilities, only to find their self-belief is repeatedly knocked by the realities of running a business.

A little self-doubt is perfectly natural, but it’s something we all need to overcome in order to be truly successful, and reach our full potential.

If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘thoughts become things’ you will have an idea of why self-doubt can be so detrimental. When you’re perpetually thinking you will fail, you will more than likely fail.

Not because you’re a failure, but because you’re expecting it to happen and reacting as if it already has. This becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy – we fail, not because we aren’t capable, but because we’re so convinced failure is inevitable we create that failure through pessimistic actions and a rather bleak outlook.

When you’re convinced you can succeed, and success in inevitable, you will act and react completely differently. This can happen in huge ways – like whether or not you go after a massive opportunity – but it can also simply be a case of perseverance.

When you believe in the inevitability of your success, setbacks are just that – bumps in the road that make the journey take a little longer, but are otherwise nothing to worry about. If you’re convinced that you can totally do this (and you can!) then success will come.

  1. Low Self-Worth

Very closely tied to low self-esteem and a lack of belief in yourself is low self-worth. Here’s how it works… you’re convinced you will succeed, and you’re actively going after that success, but at the same time you place so little value on yourself and your skills that the level of success you achieve is much lower than it could be.

Look at it this way, if you value yourself you will have no problem charging top rates for your services. When you have low self-worth, and don’t place a high value on yourself, you’ll charge low prices.

You work exactly the same number of hours, but the revenue you generate can be drastically different. High self-worth will see you pulling in high revenue figures, while low self-worth will be reflected in a very low bottom line, longer hours and more stress.

Beyond the purely monetary issue this causes, low self-worth will also cause you to put up with any number of other situations that are bad for you and your business. For example, over-delivering well beyond what clients pay for, or even expect, is a classic sign of poor self-worth. Likewise, allowing yourself to be at your clients’ beck and call without set hours and clear boundaries happens when you don’t place a high enough value on yourself.

One last thing…

Mindset is one of those things that takes time and concerted effort to get right – it’s not enough to be aware of the fact you have a certain mindset issue, it’s important to constantly challenge the way you think.


Take some time, find a quiet place and write down (in your journal if you have one, (which we strongly encourage you do) each of the steps in the dream sequence and your beliefs about yourself. Refer back to this regularly. Take action if you are finding any of the steps difficult.

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