Six lessons for getting in the “right mindset” for starting your own business

Believe it or not your childhood attitude towards a fence shapes your business mindset. As you’ll learn from my experience starting a business, having the right mindset is the key to being an entrepreneur. It’s all about being a fence hopper instead of a fence sitter.

Remember being a kid? Did you sit on a fence and dangle your legs or did you hop right over that fence? The answer matters. It reflects your outlook on life. If you’re like most kids you sat on the fence wiggling your legs while giggling with a friend and day dreaming, talking about all your big plans for life. The problem is most people never get past the fence sitting phase, even though they grow up and get jobs.

When I was a kid, I loved hopping over fences. It was fun to climb to new heights and see what was on the other side. But like most folks the majority of my adult work time has been spent sitting on the proverbial fence at the same job, day in and day out, waiting for the pension, figuring I’d be there the rest of my life.

But one day I took a good hard look at my life and realized I wasn’t meeting my financial or lifestyle goals. I wanted more than the same old paycheck and the same old hours and the same old headaches. As I began working towards starting my own business, I embodied the Nike mantra, “Just do it”. This mantra is the fence hopper, and entrepreneurial mantra. Yet, oddly enough for most people it’s, “I will, I will” followed by “I won’t, I won’t.” The problem is fear, self-doubt, insecurity, lack of support, and tools erode the dream of owning their own business before it’s even given a chance. I faced these same concerns.

Confidence/No Fear

Early on, I realized to succeed required getting in the “right mindset” to be my own boss. This involved getting over self-defeating talk and convincing myself I could do it. There is an expression in sales if you fake it long enough you believe it. The reasoning is that by acting confident, you become confident. So for me it became a matter of selling my self. Like any good sales person will tell you, to be good in sales you need to know your customers’ hot buttons, earn their trust and value and meet their needs. I sold myself on the idea of going into business for myself, but that didn’t take away the realistic fears and insecurities.

When I started the business there was no paycheck, no set date when the money would arrive, and even worse I worried that the money might not show up at all. This became my biggest fence to climb.

Contending with my own self-doubt and insecurity was one thing, but hearing the negative concerns of friends and family voiced over and over made matters worse. In their eyes I was working a “good job”, and they didn’t understand why I wanted to trade a secure paycheck for uncertainty. All I heard was “you can’t do that” and “that’s too risky”. Those kinds of comments worked against me for the first six months and threatened to undermine the entrepreneurial “can do and will do” attitude.

Friends and family didn’t understand the kind of business I started known as affiliate marketing, but they felt qualified to tell me, “If I could make money online it would probably be illegal or at best immoral.”

What they didn’t realize is that affiliate marketing is a $14 billion industry. (Source: Marketing Sherpa) and is expected to grow to approximately $230 billion by 2008. (Source: Forrester Research)

Supporting Your Endeavors

Aspiring entrepreneurs need the support of their spouse or partner. Fortunately, my wife is 100% supportive. I know some people, who sadly enough, will never succeed because their spouse runs around saying things like, “That’s a waste of time”. If your spouse or significant other is angry you’re spending time working on something other than your “real job” its going to be difficult to start a business and work around the negativity their harboring.

Getting The Tools

When you start something new it’s hard to know ahead of time what tools and knowledge you’re going to need. Combine this with a natural resistance towards spending money on an unknown venture and you’ll likely wind up lacking something that’s essential to your business.

For instance, my first attempt developing an online business utilized a free domain name and web hosting which hampered my ability to have a professional looking web site. Plus, I felt overwhelmed entering a new industry and market. There was simply too much to know and I didn’t know where to obtain the right information to make the business venture a success. When things looked their bleakest, instead of abandoning my plans, I found help and that’s when the success began.

Knowing When And Where To Ask For Help

Reading the motivational book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki provided numerous insights. The top four principles entail:

“Work to learn” and not to earn” mindset

Form relationships with people who are successful and willing to pass on their knowledge

Being successful requires making a personal investment.

Working a job you will not get you ahead financially

By following these principles I worked out a deal with a business colleague. I agreed to work for free while he taught me the ropes. With finances tight it made more sense to donate time instead of placing myself under financial duress. Thanks to his generosity I’m now successful in affiliate marketing with numerous specialty web sites including: credit cards , area rugs, and hockey equipment.

Goal Setting And Balance

Figure out a time commitment that works for you and your family. By devoting just one hour per day to building the business, while working the old job I found balance. While the time might sound small it worked and became a daily goal.

Goal setting - A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Goal setting can get out of hand if you’re goals aren’t realistic. When I didn’t meet my monetary goals by a certain date I became angry, due to the “job mentality”. By being both the boss and employee the insecurity and angry set in. Instead of letting the emotions wreak havoc take time to examine what went wrong and why you didn’t achieve the goal. As you get better at running your business it gets easier to figure out ways to achieve goals in a realistic timeframe.

Testing the “Own Business Mindset”

The real test came when I made the decision to quit the “real job”. With the resignation letter in hand all the childhood messages: go to school, get good grades, obtain a high-quality job, stay employed until 65, and retire with a modest pension all these words of advice rattled my plans. Shaking those beliefs ingrained throughout the better part of my life proved difficult. To get past the fear I reminded myself of companies like Enron, where employees took the safe route only to lose their pension and livelihood. Plus, I looked around at all the companies downsizing and outsourcing eliminating countless jobs. I realized the idea of a secure job ‘until you’re 65 is a myth and that security is what you make it, not what some one else provides.

Running my own business there’s always another fence to climb over to reach new heights of financial success; the income keeps getting higher, just the way I like it.

About the author
Colin McDougall is a successful affiliate marketer and entrepreneur. You can visit his sites at and for samples of successful sites.