Go Ahead and Prove All the Naysayers Wrong!

I had the pleasure of being one of the speakers at the ETR Wealth Building Bootcamp this past October. I especially enjoyed spending time with so many motivated attendees who were clearly very serious about improving their lives. My presentation was “Keys to Building Wealth With a Small Business” — a part of the “Chicken Entrepreneur” panel discussion.

You may remember that Michael Masterson coined the term “chicken entrepreneur” to illustrate how you can build your own business without taking enormous risks (like quitting your “day job” or plunging all your net worth into an unproven new venture).

The speakers on our “chicken entrepreneur” panel covered some very important topics, including:

• taking action on a daily basis

• not being afraid to start small

• developing a core niche or area of expertise.

The principal subject I focused on was to not let people who are close to you — your friends and family — prevent you from going after your dream of starting your own business. This is a problem that is more common than you might think. And overcoming it is so important to your success that I want to discuss it with you today. It’s not that the people who are close to you want to do you harm.

Quite the opposite. They usually have your best interests at heart. But they think it’s hard to start a new business — and they don’t want to see you fail. So they discourage you from even trying. For example, one of my early small businesses (one that I operated for quite a while) was a successful ballroom dance instruction studio. While most of my relatives just rolled their eyes when I initially explained my business idea, my grandmother was particularly harsh. She chastised me for wanting to start such a business. She told me that nobody was interested in ballroom dancing anymore and that I simply didn’t have any “common sense.” I have to tell you that the scowl she gave me as she belittled my ambitions really gave me some doubts. But I’m sure she didn’t mean to upset me. She probably thought it would be better for me to feel a little hurt at that moment than to go off and start a project doomed for failure. What happens when you don’t get the support of your family for something that you’re excited about doing?

For most people, the natural reaction is to become defensive. And in that defensive mode, you waste valuable time and energy trying to get the approval of someone who is unlikely to be swayed by anything you say. Having said that, it is possible to take that criticism and turn it into something positive — something that could help increase your chances of success. The first thing that you need to do is give yourself a little bit of time to calm down. Once you’re feeling rational, objectively analyze the criticism to see if it has any merit — to see if that person may have seen something that you hadn’t thought of. When I started my ballroom dance business (in the early 1990’s), my grandmother was certainly correct when she pointed out that ballroom dancing wasn’t “the craze that all the kids are doing.”

When I thought about it, I realized that what she was telling me in her less-than-diplomatic manner was that she didn’t think the market would be big enough for me to earn a good income by teaching people how to do it. So I did some due diligence and researched the matter. And I discovered that virtually every metropolitan area in the country had one or two of the major ballroom franchises, as well as some independent operators. That seemed to indicate that, in general, there were enough people interested in taking lessons to sustain a business like mine. Then I looked more specifically at my local market.

Here in South Florida, there were (and are) many affluent retirees — likely targets for my new business. And I learned that there were already about three times more ballroom instruction businesses in this area as there were in other metropolitan areas. A good sign. Not only had I reassured myself that I had a viable concept, but my grandmother’s criticism actually helped make it happen. She’d gotten me to pinpoint my prime marketing target — which is at the heart of any start-up business plan. At this point, I was sure that there was a place for me in the marketplace.

Then, using ETR Microbusiness strategies, I was able to quickly build up a profitable small business. Within a short period of time, I was making enough money with it to support myself — much to the surprise of my relatives. Then I was featured on the front page of the lifestyle section of the area’s largest newspaper — and for a brief moment, I became “a local celebrity.” My grandmother was first in line to say that she always knew I could do it.

(Ed Note: Paul Lawrence is an entrepreneur and the creator of ETR’s exciting new Microbusiness Program.)