I’m A Big Chicken: Reducing The Personal Risk Of Starting A Business

I had lunch with my new business mentor, Michele, the other day.  I feel such a connection with her that it’s spooky.  Not an I-wanna-be-your-best-friend connection but our styles seem very similar so there is a comfort level in talking to her that makes things easier.  I was shocked and thrilled to learn that she has a MFA in Fiction Writing.  Like me, she wants to be a writer when she grows up.

We discussed starting a business and I left with homework including doing research to start to determine a price point (I don’t even know if my idea is profitable) and writing down my ideas rather than having them wondering aimlessly around in my head.  Michele suggested that, rather than start with a standard business plan template, that I start working on 3 documents

  1. What will my business do for me.
  2. What will my business do for my customers (hospitals)
  3. What will my business do for the recipients of the service that my business will provide (patients)

The tuffest part of our discussion was about the level of personal risk that is involved with starting a business.  “After 9/11 I didn’t get paid for 3 months.  We didn’t buy Christmas gifts for each other and we ate a lot of macaroni & cheese – all the money went to pay the staff” Michele explained.  Yikes!  Am I really prepared for that?  I’m pretty much use to buying what I want when I want it.

Here are my top concerns when it comes to the risk of starting a business

  1. I’m afraid to not have health insurance.
  2. I’m afraid to quit my job and lose the guaranteed paycheck.
  3. We need my income.  In fact, I’m not even sure we could go one pay period without my income.
  4. If the business is not sustainable, I’m afraid I’d have a hard time getting back into a position making the money I make now.

The list goes on.  The bottom line is that there is a ton of personal risk in starting a new business.  And I’m realizing that I don’t have the balls I had 10 years ago.  Plus, my guy is much more level headed and practical than I am which means I’d not likely convince him that it’s worth the risk.

Michele had some good ideas about reducing personal risk, one of them I’d already thought of myself.  Since the business I’d like to start is highly connected to my current career, I could try to convince my boss to allow me to move into a role just like my business would provide on a part-time basis and allow me the freedom to offer my service to other organizations like ours in the area.  This would allow me to keep my employee benefits (though they’d be more costly on a part-time basis) and it would give me credibility since I’d be performing the same service I’d be offering other clients and doing so for a very reputable organization.  The bad part of this idea is that it gives my boss way more control than I’d like her to have.  I’m not sure if this would translate into problems but the potential is certainly there.  Either way, I’m in the process of scheduling time with my boss to discuss the idea.

Anybody have an great advice on reducing the personal risk of starting a business?