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.