We might think of successful businesses as large, well-oiled machines, but perhaps there’s a more accurate metaphor, particularly when it comes to small businesses and start-ups. After all, in most cases, starting a new business is anything but a seamless and smooth process. Sure, there are common, predictable hurdles for which business owners can forecast and prepare, but many of the toughest obstacles aren’t conquered by calculators or legal documents. Instead, it’s a willingness to take risks — well-considered and well-informed risks — that determines a start-up’s potential and sustainability. However, today more than ever there are resources upon which small business owners can lean to help navigate the course and make timely decisions.
Planting Seeds that Sprout
Starting a business isn’t hard. However, starting a business with potential for success – and sustaining it – is a task fraught with challenges. If one can provide and verify one’s name, address, identification, and contact information, one can “start a business.” But in order to establish a brand (and a solid model of operation and growth), one must simultaneously embrace the structure and bureaucracy of the system as well as embracing the creativity (and inevitable uncertainty) of charting new territory.
It seems logical, at first, to assume that one can start and run a business with almost no risks if one so chooses. After all, business ideas develop because there’s already a demand for the product the business will offer, right? One is just filling a void rather than prompting potential customers to buy something they don’t need or want. It seems fairly safe. Beneath the surface, though, lie myriad decisions regarding how to meet that demand, especially since there’s virtually no method that isn’t going to involve drawbacks. In such instances, the risk-averse may cower, but this is where an awareness of available resources can help business owners decide when to fold an idea and when to go all-in.
Crossing Bridges Instead of Leaping Across Canyons
Fortunately, in almost every industry, there are numerous federal, local, and non-profit entities whose goal is to help businesses identify and manage risks. It’s still up to business owners to make the decision and handle the consequence, but organizations like the Small Business Administration (in the US) provide a wealth of information and opportunities for financial support, especially for those just getting a business off the ground.
Similarly, journalists and bloggers alike share knowledge and experience regarding the home-based aspects of the business, aimed at the ever-increasing number of business owners and freelancers operating from their home offices. Beyond general resources, industry-specific resources are also critical, as the initial risks are closely intertwined with the industry and its market.
In terms of risk-taking, industry-specific organizations also help mitigate risks by helping business owners assess costs and benefits while considering both short-term and long-term outcomes. This assistance is particularly important in highly regulated industries, such as the food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the gaming industry.
In the case of the latter, the Interactive Gaming Council has created an international forum for discussing issues and interests specific to the gaming industry. Likewise, organizations like the Specialty Coffee Association help entrepreneurs better understand and market their products, and they provide research and a community of professionals to help new businesses navigate regulatory challenges.
Ultimately, business growth on any level involves preparation, spotting opportunities, and taking calculated risks. While it may feel like a lonesome road for small business owners and entrepreneurs (especially during those early stages) those with ambition and the determination to create a successful business have an abundance of resources to lighten the load. Can such resources relieve business owners of all risks? Unfortunately, no. By definition, the owner is almost always going to bear the bulk of the risks involved in creating and growing a business.
Nonetheless, those who want to stay ahead of the curve have communities and organizations designed specifically to support their growth and development as entrepreneurs. It’s such tools that alleviate some of the pain and instill confidence in business owners to embrace inevitable risks.