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Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the best ways to build wealth. Yet far too many people let fear or misperceptions about starting a business keep them from investing in their futures in this way.
It’s time to dispel some of the myths about entrepreneurship that are holding people back.
Myth #1: Starting a business always comes with a lot of risk.
Truth: You have more control over risk than you may think.
If you didn’t grow up with entrepreneurial parents, chances are you grew up believing that starting a business is far riskier than working for someone else.
Many people are taught from a young age that a job with an established employer that offers health insurance, a 401(k) plan with an employer match and paid time off is “safe.” But that’s not true. You can perform well in a role with an established company and still lose your job with little to no warning. In recent months, there have been plenty of news stories about thousands of employees with some of the biggest companies in the U.S. waking up to discover they’re out of work.
How does this compare with the risk of working for yourself? If you start a business with only one client, it’s similar. If you build a robust and diverse list of clients instead, you begin to bring that risk way down.
Remember that when you are an employee, you have a single client. When you are in business, you have many clients, so if one client fires you, you are not out of business.
The key here is to grow your business as quickly as possible, from zero clients to a diverse client base that generates at least as much income for you as your full-time job. How do you do that? Educate yourself on your business. The more you know about investing in a business and the specific industry and market for your business, the more you’ll be able to minimize your risks.
Does starting a business come with risk? Of course. But you have a lot more control over that risk than you think.
Myth #2: Starting a business is expensive.
Truth: The government will pay you to start and grow your business.
This myth stops a lot of would-be entrepreneurs in their tracks. Many people have the desire to start a business and a great idea of what that business would be, but let fear of the start-up costs prevent them from taking even the smallest action.
If that’s you, instead of making assumptions about the costs, get the facts instead. Invest some time into creating your business plan, including an assessment of the start-up costs. You’ll also want to have a good handle on what revenue and expenses you’re likely to see in the first year of operation.
The cost structure of your business will vary greatly depending on the industry and nature of your work. Thanks to technology, you can start many businesses with very little up-front capital. But don’t immediately rule out a business idea if these initial costs seem large.
Governments worldwide have created financial incentives for people to start and grow businesses that can offset many of these costs. Business owners can access some of the best tax credits and deductions. In fact, most of your up-front and first-year business expenses are deductible, including:
- Rent or capital to purchase a location (or your home office)
- Staffing costs
- Legal expenses
If you anticipate operating the business at a loss in the first year, don’t despair. That’s common in many business models, and the government offers some assistance here as well. Losses from the business can offset other income, such as interest, dividends or a spouse’s wages.
Why do governments offer these incentives? Because they want more people to start and grow businesses that create jobs and provide goods and services to their community. A thriving private sector helps keep the population happy and secure. Governments see so many benefits from entrepreneurship that they offer a host of tax credits as additional incentives. Depending on the type of business you start, the location you select and the workers you employ, you may be eligible for credits that directly offset the amount of tax you owe dollar for dollar. Common business tax credits include credits for:
- Creating jobs in economically distressed communities.
- Hiring people from targeted groups that have faced significant barriers to employment.
- Offering a qualified health care plan to employees.
- Providing paid family and medical leave to employees.
- Research and development.
Myth #3: I’m too old to start a business.
Truth: If you’re over 40 and starting a business, you’re in great company.
You’ve heard many stories of successful entrepreneurs who started their companies in their college dorm room or parent’s garage. And starting a business early in life — before you have the responsibilities of raising children or caring for aging parents — has a certain appeal.
But it’s not too late if you didn’t take the entrepreneurial plunge in your 20s or 30s. A recent study of more than 2.7 million entrepreneurs found that the average age of successful founders was 42, and the average age of founders of the fastest-growing companies was 45. And that’s the average, so plenty of people have successfully launched companies in their 50s, 60s and beyond. Colonel Sanders didn’t perfect his fried chicken recipe until he was 50, and he was in his 60s when he first franchised it, creating Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Embarking on business ownership after establishing a career means you can bring more experience, and potentially more capital, to your venture. You also may be able to start a business while maintaining your current employment. As long as your business doesn’t create a conflict of interest and your schedule allows it, starting a business on the side can be a great option. It opens up the tax benefits of business ownership while maintaining your current salary, giving you a great on-ramp to launch your new venture.
If you or someone in your life has been thinking about starting a business, now is the time. Debunk the myths and get started today.