With all of the uncertainty surrounding our economy and the job market, many people are deciding to strike out on their own and start their own businesses. The thought of being in control of their own schedule, pursuing a passion, and unlimited earning potential are the biggest draws to entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, launching your own business is a lot of work and requires a great deal of investment of your time, energy, and both financial and intellectual resources. The success of your business is not guaranteed.

Most of us have heard that 50% of businesses fail within their first year and 95% fail within the first five years. However, according to the statistics published by the Small Business Administration (SBA) in 2014, half of new businesses make it at least 5 years and 30% survive 10 years or more. As staggering as these statistics may be, many people still decide to launch their own business.

There are others who “plan” to start their own business. I stressed the word plan, because so many people get stuck there. They may spend years planning, preparing, and researching. They’re waiting for the right time, a certain amount of money, or a particular stage of life, but yet and still that day never comes.

When I was a kid, my father worked for the local university. During the summer he would take my brother and I over to the campus pool. The pool had a section for swimming laps and a diving section. In the diving section there were 3 boards at varied heights. My brother and I often jumped off the lowest boards but never dared to jump from the highest one. One day I decided I was going to be brave and jump from the high dive. I climbed confidently up the ladder and onto the board. I walked out to the edge of the board and looked down at the water. The water seemed to be much further away from the board than I thought and my nerves kicked in. I stood there on the edge for what seemed an eternity before deciding to climb back down. I just couldn’t do it. I was too scared.

You may be contemplating starting your own business. You’ve been planning….researching….preparing and the day has come to jump off the high dive. But, you feel like I did up on that board. The jump seems too far and too scary for you to take that leap. You’re on the edge thinking about all that could go wrong. And yes, things can go wrong and often do. But if you never jump, you’ll never experience the successes either. Every day we take risks and don’t even think about them. While driving our cars around town we risk getting into an accident. Eating out at restaurants we risk getting food poisoning. Using our debit and credit cards we risk having our accounts being compromised. Even though we don’t consciously think about these scenarios as being risky, there is a certain level of risk involved and we decide to do them in spite of the risk.

So how do you decide that the time is now to take the risk? I learned about a tool called the Risk Analysis Decider while reading “The Mindset Shift: Stop the Corporate Rat Race, Make a Difference.” The tool originated from Joan Gale Frank’s book “Instant Guts.” Essentially, you ask yourself these four questions:

  1. If I take this risk, what could I gain?
  2. If I take this risk, what could I lose?
  3. If I don’t take this risk, what do I have to gain?
  4. If I don’t take this risk, what do I have to lose?

After honestly answering these questions, weigh your answers against each other. Is pursuing your passion worth more than having the security of a set pay check? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. You have to make an honest assessment here. I personally hate to be haunted by “I wonder what would have happened if I ____________.” However, there have been times when I felt the risk was too great to take certain paths and feel confident that after weighing all options I ultimately made the right decision. Of course, I’m not saying I always make the right choice. In fact, I’ve made some very poor decisions. In most of those cases the decisions were made out of emotion or pressure rather than contemplative decisiveness.

So take the time to analyze the risk involved in starting your business. Then decide based on your analysis if now is the time. I didn’t jump off the high dive that day, but I did eventually do it. I only did it once, but I proved to myself that I had the guts to conquer my fear. Maybe today isn’t the day for you, but that doesn’t mean your day won’t come.

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