Starting Your Own Business: What’s Holding You Back?

Editor’s Note: This guest post about starting a business comes from Karen Steele, founder of The Entrepreneurial Working Mom and a certified professional life coach. 

By Karen Steele

I was having a discussion with a long-time friend and one of my favorite people in the world this week. She was telling me about completing her accreditation as a personal trainer and was in the process of deciding which course to enroll in next.

Soon after discussing her ideas and options, our conversation turned to the topic of owning your own business. My friend expressed her desire to eventually own her own business rather than work for someone else.

Out of curiosity I asked her, “Why don’t you start a business now?”

My friend is one of the most positive, upbeat people I know – one of those people that make you feel more energized. She truly sparkles. In addition, she is talented and creative – an artist, a jewelry maker, incredible teacher, highly knowledgeable on nutrition and fitness, has lived and worked around the world – you get the picture – the list could go on.

Her reply to my question — that she lacks the expertise — confirmed for me once again that it isn’t just about what we often think: time and money. Another reason lurks deeper under the surface.

It’s what I like to call the “Expert Syndrome,” which is way more common to budding women entrepreneurs than their male counterparts.

What are the signs of this syndrome?

  • You have a list of courses or accreditations you still need to do before you will be expert enough to launch your own business.
  • You think you don’t have the experience needed to start your own business.
  • Or maybe you think “Who am I to start a business? I’m not an expert at anything.”

Believe me, I am well-versed in the Expert Syndrome, being a chronic sufferer myself for many many years. It kept me stuck in the 9-5 world working for someone else when all I really wanted was to work for myself. I kept researching more programs and courses trying to find the right one that would finally give me what I needed to take the leap. In the end, some wonderful mentors intervened to help me recover. Otherwise, I would still be in a job I dislike.

I realized for me it stemmed from the fear of not being good enough or of being judged in what I did, as well as a lack of confidence and belief in my own unique gifts and talents.

So here are my top three tips I learned along my journey of recovery from the “Expert Syndrome.”

Tip #1: Shift Your “Expert” Mindset

What does being an expert really mean? The definition of expert is a person with a high degree of skill or knowledge of a certain subject through experience or training.

Does that mean to be called an expert writer we have to have won the Pulitzer Prize, or to be an expert entrepreneur we have to be the next Steve Jobs?

Absolutely not!

It’s time to shift our thinking about what being an expert really means. First, there is likely always going to be someone out there more expert than you. That goes for even the people we view as experts in their field. This is good news that we can use to our benefit and I will talk about more in the next tip.

When you really reflect on that definition of expert, wouldn’t we all be an expert at something simply through our life and work experiences?

Certainly our unique experiences will make us more of an expert than many other people in that area. For example, if you have raised three kids while working, you would be considered an expert in this topic to those new moms that are just embarking on this journey.

So think about your own experiences in work and life. Certainly you could consider yourself more expert in some area than someone else, or many other people. People who would benefit and be excited to learn from what you have to offer based on your experience. Expertise is relative. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying go out there and pretend to be an expert in something you are not – for instance a doctor. Just realize we all have an expert inside of us.

Tip #2: Bring in Experts to Fill the Gaps

Maybe you want to start a business to teach people how to market their business most effectively to make more profits. However, despite your many years of a successful marketing career, you feel like you are lacking expertise in the social media-marketing world.

Does that mean you should go out and get your master’s degree in Social Media before launching your business?

No!

Instead, find someone else that is an expert in that field and create a partnership with them. Invite them to do special guest blogs, or to do bonus classes, or record an interview with them on social media marketing you offer to your clients. Through this process, you will also increase your own expertise in social media marketing.

Many women out there who have no experience in product development have successfully launched incredible businesses simply by seeing a need to be filled through their own experience.

Spanx is a great example. Sara Blakely simply had an idea when she couldn’t find the undergarment she really wanted. She new nothing about designing or making undergarments. Instead she brought in the experts to design and manufacture the idea for her. It is now a $1 billion company.

So don’t let a gap in your knowledge or experience hold you back from starting your business. Build a support team of people who can fill in those gaps.

Tip #3: Business Success Is Not About Being the Expert

Your level of expertise is not the determining factor of whether your business will succeed or fail. In the long run being the leading expert on something does not mean you are more likely to create a thriving business then someone “less expert.”

Richard Branson was certainly no leading expert in the music or airline industry. Yet he built an empire around both of these products.

Jillian Michaels holds a personal training certification and has her own experience in struggling with weight issues. Certainly not qualifications we would see as making her a leading expert in health and fitness. Yet she has a built a multi-millionaire dollar empire around this.

There are many moms out there who have made millions launching a new product. Not because they were experts in product design, but simply because they saw a gap in the market for something they were looking for as a mom.

So how did they create empires around something they had little expertise in?

Shifting their mindset around what an expert is and seeing the value in their own life experience such as being a mom or struggling with weight issues. Then filling in the gaps with other experts. Branson himself claims his success to hiring well and having great mentors.

Many factors will contribute to your business success:

  • Your resourcefulness
  • Your mindset
  • Your ability to create relationships with your clients
  • The people you surround yourself and partner with
  • Your approach to business
  • Your commitment and perseverance
  • Your problem-solving abilities.

These will set you apart from the rest–not how many letters or qualifications you have listed after your name.

So before you go and sign up for the next course or search for the next job you think you need to get on your path to becoming an “expert,” think about this:

Karen Steele Headshot

There are people out there just waiting for you to start your business. People that will benefit from the experience and expertise you already have to offer. So it’s time to finally take action. Don’t keep them waiting anymore.

Here’s to finding your unique expertise!

Karen Steele is founder of The Entrepreneurial Working Mom where she teaches overwhelmed working moms the confidence, courage and skills to ditch the 9-5 and leap into their own thriving business so they can create the life they want for their family. Karen is a Certified Professional Life Coach, mom and entrepreneur. Download her FREE 5-part audio series “Top 5 Mindset Secrets of Savvy & Successful Entrepreneurial Working Moms: So You Can Ditch the 9-5 and Create the Life You Want for Your Family.” 


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Susan
Susan Wenner Jackson is a writer and mom who gets paid to obsess over Pinterest and blogs for Ahalogy, a Cincinnati-based startup. She lives in her hometown of West Chester, Ohio, with her husband, two young children, and their dog.
Susan
Susan
Susan

Comments

  1. Hi, Karen & Susan,

    I started my business two months ago. We moved and as I tried to find a new job I kept getting the sense that I didn’t want a “job.” I wanted to work, but not for someone else. I found a ton of people in cyberspace blogging about how and why to start a business. They really encouraged me to take the chance.

    Thanks, Karen, for helping other mom-preneurs realize their true and special gifts and encouraging them to take a chance, show their skills, and earn a living they can be proud of.

  2. I wonder if health insurance is a big barrier to people striking out on their own. We have to purchase our own because I’m an independent contractor and my husband’s job doesn’t offer a good plan. Let me tell you, it can be very difficult to get if you or anyone in your family has ANY prior health concerns. And then, they can keep raising your rate until it’s hard to afford anymore. We just switched companies because Anthem raised our rate $150 a month, for no reason (we are healthy). We would have been paying more for health insurance than we pay for our mortgage. If people are lucky enough these days to be in a job with a health plan they may be reluctant to brave the private insurance market. It’s not for the faint of heart (and Lord help you if you DO have a faint heart)…

    • Sara, that is a good point. Insurance is tricky and often sucky. I hope the Affordable Care Act will help more people get better access to care, whether they’re self-employed or working for someone else.

      But I do think it’s true many women (myself included, back in the day) don’t even GET to that barrier before they decide they’re not “expert” enough to launch a business. If insurance is the only thing standing in your way, get a good insurance agent and you will find a way (I hope!)

      • Good point, Susan, about making assumptions re: our ability to launch businesses. I just have to shake my head, though, when politicians talk about encouraging entrepreneurship but can’t seem to address the kinds of nuts and bolts items that can be huge barriers.

        • Sara, you make some great points about the health insurance. That was a concern for our family too. We also had pre-existing to consider. They can longer use the pre-existing to deny coverage or charge higher premiums for children as of 2012 and that also goes into effect for adults in 2014 I believe. I found a great health insurance agent who specialized in small business insurance that helped us to navigate through all the details of the rules and regulations and found insurance that worked for our family. There are options to get group insurance when you start a small business rather than have to go the private insurance route. This has more regulations in place including they can’t deny coverage or cancel for pre-existing. I agree that there can be more ways that entrepreneurship can be supported!

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