Lack of Experience Isn’t the Problem

Do you remember the first job you applied for as a young adult? Chances are it was for some entry-level position that merely required you to be half as intelligent as you were, show up on time, and not be drunk.

Yet some genius in HR decided it was a good idea to put “1-3 years of previous experience required” in the ad for the position. To me, that always felt like asking a rookie-year baseball player to have “1-3 years of major league experience.”

Yesterday, The Grasshopper Group published an interesting info graphic titled “The Harsh Realities of Starting a Small Business”. I spent some time reviewing the data and a few things struck me as interesting. But I want to focus on one of them today:

According the U.S. Small Business Administration, the number one reason businesses fail is due to lack of experience.

Lack of Experience Isn’t the Problem

If you’re starting your first business, how much experience do you have starting a business? (The answer is “none” for those still waking up.) So how do you gain experience? You start a business.

The bad news is that, statistically, you’re going to fail. The good news is that it won’t be your lack of experience and it can be prevented. After all, plenty of first-time entrepreneurs succeed.

So if lack of experience isn’t the reason most businesses fail, then what is? I’d argue that it’s pride.

The Path to Entrepreneurship

Why did you start your company? Or, if you’re not there yet, why do you want to start your own business? It’s probably because you believe that you can run a business and that you’d be happier working for yourself. Maybe you’re fed up with your job or your boss. Maybe you hate having to ask for permission to take a vacation. Maybe it’s been a dream since you were a kid.

Whatever the reason, the path to starting a business always begins with the idea that you have the ability to run a company. In his book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber wrote the following:

Inside your mind it sounded something like this: “What am I doing this for? Why am I working for this guy? Hell, I know as much about this as he does. If it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t have a business. Any dummy can run a business. I’m working for one.”

Whether this is confidence, pride, or a little bit of both is a moot point. It’s what happens next that’s the problem.

When Pride Replaces Confidence

If you’re inexperienced, you should at least have confidence in your ability to learn, grow, and adapt if you want to start a business. Confidence is not a bad thing. However, if you’re not careful, your confidence can easily morph into pride.

  • Confidence says, “I can learn how to do this.” Pride says, “I know how to do this.”
  • Confidence says, “I can bond around my weaknesses.” Pride says, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
  • Confidence says, “I made a mistake.” Pride says, “She screwed up.”
  • Confidence asks, “Can you help me?” Pride says, “I don’t need his advice.”
  • Confidence says, “I will earn this.” Pride says, “I deserve this.”
  • Confidence says, “I don’t know.” Pride says, “He doesn’t know.”

Lacking something – anything – is never the problem. Not doing anything to gain what you lack is the problem. Pride will prevent you from taking the steps you need to take to gain what you’re missing. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be successful on your first business if you check your pride at the door. However, you’ll increase the likelihood of your success because you’ll grow, learn and adapt.

Don’t let your lack of experience keep you from starting a business. Instead, let your lack of experience drive you toward those who can help you, teach you, and counsel you. Bond around your inexperience with experience. Hire people who are experts. Seek advice from people who’ve done what you’re trying to do. Read every business book you can get your hands on. Never think you’ve learned it all and never stop learning.

About the Author

  • Great stuff, Travis. This goes along with the phrase, "hire people smarter than you'. I think it's good advice to follow. I think most entrepreneurs start off with that mentality, but as they achieve some success, that's when the pride sets in. It's certainly a delicate balance. Entrepreneurs should have confidence in their abilities and not get bogged down by inexperience. On the flip side, you're right – pride and cockiness is a total turnoff.

    • Thanks, Laura! We definitely need to hire people who are smarter than us!

      It's funny how many people I hear say they want to hire people smarter than them. Sometimes, they never even do it. Most of the time though, they get threatened by those people once they're in the company. Many people really struggle with not being the smartest person in their own company. They fear that others will look to someone else for leadership instead of them.

      Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing, Laura.

  • Great stuff, Travis. This goes along with the phrase, "hire people smarter than you'. I think it's good advice to follow. I think most entrepreneurs start off with that mentality, but as they achieve some success, that's when the pride sets in. It's certainly a delicate balance. Entrepreneurs should have confidence in their abilities and not get bogged down by inexperience. On the flip side, you're right – pride and cockiness is a total turnoff.

    • Thanks, Laura! We definitely need to hire people who are smarter than us!

      It's funny how many people I hear say they want to hire people smarter than them. Sometimes, they never even do it. Most of the time though, they get threatened by those people once they're in the company. Many people really struggle with not being the smartest person in their own company. They fear that others will look to someone else for leadership instead of them.

      Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing, Laura.

  • Travis, your last paragraph sums it up perfectly. The difference in pride and confidence is the eagerness to succeed and learn along the way.

  • Travis, your last paragraph sums it up perfectly. The difference in pride and confidence is the eagerness to succeed and learn along the way.

  • Patty

    Thank you for this message. I think about this stuff all of the time. I have had a BA for 5 years, can I get a job with my degree that matches it? Not yet but I still have a strong belief that it is out there waiting for me to grab hold of it. The problem is that I can't figure out what that job would be. Recently God told me to be patient. I think I sorta have been. Thanks for some great insight!

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Patty. Have you ever thought about creating your own job (i.e. starting your own small business)? Also, have you looked at Dan Miller's book "48 Days to the Work You Love" – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0032FO376?ie=UT… You may find it valuable on your journey. Keep me posted and thanks for sharing!

  • Patty

    Thank you for this message. I think about this stuff all of the time. I have had a BA for 5 years, can I get a job with my degree that matches it? Not yet but I still have a strong belief that it is out there waiting for me to grab hold of it. The problem is that I can't figure out what that job would be. Recently God told me to be patient. I think I sorta have been. Thanks for some great insight!

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Patty. Have you ever thought about creating your own job (i.e. starting your own small business)? Also, have you looked at Dan Miller's book "48 Days to the Work You Love" – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0032FO376?ie=UT… You may find it valuable on your journey. Keep me posted and thanks for sharing!

  • Patty

    LoL Travis, Great stuff and thank you for the bonus advise. I have thought about owning a small business. I will take a look at the items that you advised. I am always up for shameless plugs.

  • Patty

    LoL Travis, Great stuff and thank you for the bonus advise. I have thought about owning a small business. I will take a look at the items that you advised. I am always up for shameless plugs.

  • "Read every business book you can get your hands on. Never think you’ve learned it all and never stop learning."

    I would even suggest branching out. Read more than just about business itself (I have no doubt you would agree). My favorite quote matches what you say.

    "The greatest obstacle to discovery is the illusion of knowledge." Daniel J. Boorstin

    Enjoyed this (got linked here from this post: http://travisrobertson.com/leadership/4-articles-… )

    • Great quote, Charles! Thanks for sharing. And I would definitely agree with you – it's not just businesses books we need to read.

  • "Read every business book you can get your hands on. Never think you’ve learned it all and never stop learning."

    I would even suggest branching out. Read more than just about business itself (I have no doubt you would agree). My favorite quote matches what you say.

    "The greatest obstacle to discovery is the illusion of knowledge." Daniel J. Boorstin

    Enjoyed this (got linked here from this post: http://travisrobertson.com/leadership/4-articles-… )

    • Great quote, Charles! Thanks for sharing. And I would definitely agree with you – it's not just businesses books we need to read.

      • Thanks, wish i could edit my quote – i was hastily typing it.

        "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge." (essentially the same thing)

        Nice blog, just read through a few more posts, will be back!

        • Patty

          Charles I had to read it three times to figure out what you missed the first time. Kind of like those duplicate pictures where you have to find 10 things that are in one and not the other. Thanks for the advise on reading.

  • Thanks, wish i could edit my quote – i was hastily typing it.

    "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge." (essentially the same thing)

    Nice blog, just read through a few more posts, will be back!

    • Patty

      Charles I had to read it three times to figure out what you missed the first time. Kind of like those duplicate pictures where you have to find 10 things that are in one and not the other. Thanks for the advise on reading.

  • Thanks, wish i could edit my quote – i was hastily typing it.

    "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge." (essentially the same thing)

    Nice blog, just read through a few more posts, will be back!

  • Darrell Z Moreno

    I don’t think that lack of experience should really be a problem. One should learn to learn good marketing and management strategy to survive. You can start by submitting your company name to a free business directory, or use social bookmarking to promote your company site.

  • murphyslate618

    That is all I need in order for me in starting a handyman business. It will serve as my encouragement as well as guide in order to be successful.

  • jeffpittman401

    It is always my dream to buy a business in Brisbane after I graduate college, and I really believe I can do this on my own. My dad always told me you just have to know how to be a leader and do some research about the path you’re going to take.

  • Tom N Shaw

     I would agree that experience isn’t always the key to success. It should also take a lot of hard work, strategy, and most importantly, patience. You can start with a small business, have it on business directory and let others find you. As you go along, you’ll just be surprised how a great entrepreneur you already are.

  • Danikka Christopher

    Before deciding into jumping to business industry, you have to be aware tat not all small businesse rocketed to the top without even experiencing failures. Just like delaware llc. They have observed and helped a lot of companies which encountered same situations. They fought and recovered what was lost during the business crisis. a