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Utah Business

Small business in America is dying, but there's something we can do to save the entrepreneurial spriit our country is known for.

How Modern Americans Can Save Small Business

The American entrepreneurial spirit is dying. The number of new businesses has declined every year for the last decade. This may seem acceptable while the economy is thriving, but small businesses employ more than a third of working Americans, so this decline could present a large problem. The solution is more personal than some new tax incentive or investment program—the solution is you. If you have a good idea for a new company and are in a position to start a business, now is the time to go for it.

When I was growing up, my dad owned a service station, so our family’s financial well-being was dependent on his determination, grit, and hard work. He was an inspiration to me, making the leap of starting a business seem less daunting, proving it was doable. I knew throughout high school and college that I wanted to create and run a company. I assumed, though, that I would take the leap when I had a few more years of experience under my belt. So after graduation, I took a job with a startup to learn everything I could and see if I liked it. 

The company failed, but the experience was everything I wanted it to be. As I found myself out of a job, I kept coming back to the idea of starting my own business. I felt it was a realistic goal and I wanted to do it. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to create something from nothing, and that’s what every small business is, especially in the beginning. It’s taking an idea, working and willing it to exist, and convincing your friends, family, customers, and eventual coworkers that it is worth investing time and money into. 

When I was starting out, I had plenty of insecurities about my age and inexperience, but I had my dad’s example to look to for guidance and inspiration. Other aspiring entrepreneurs often confess to me that they feel similarly underqualified and unsure of themselves. Starting a business is a serious matter and does involve very real risks. Considerations such as your family, mortgage, and retirement should certainly be taken into account. But when people share their feelings of anxiety about this, my advice to them is to answer this question: “What is the worst-case scenario?”

Everyone has doubts when they consider starting a business, so it helps to keep this in mind: the worst that can happen for any business, even if it completely fails, is the loss of your time and money. But it won’t be the end of the world. You can get another job. Your finances will recover over time. Your resume will not suffer. In fact, many companies will admire your entrepreneurial spirit, recognizing the many hats you wore and the many skills you developed as the CEO of a company. Starting a business is a very rewarding experience that will teach you invaluable lessons no matter if it’s successful or not.

As I’ve grown in my career, a number of friends, colleagues, and even strangers have talked to me about their big ideas for a new company, but most never actually start one. That’s more common than one would think—there are millions of would-be business owners and job creators, innovators, and inventors who do not take that first step. When I ask why their answers are almost always related to fear. They don’t think they have enough business knowledge or the right degree. But the only way you learn if you and your idea could make it is to try. Like any sport, no amount of instruction adequately prepares you for what you will have to do. At the end of the day, you can’t succeed if you never actually take the leap, surround yourself with good people, and give it your all. 

You can quit at any time if you change your mind, but you can’t ever get to the finish line without taking that first step. At some point, people fall into mistaking all of the planning and preparation for the actual doing. You just have to do it. No one is ever fully prepared and no amount of reading entrepreneurial how-to books or listening to podcasts about how others did it will make you ready.

If you’re on the fence, jump. Join the millions of us who have taken the leap. Give your idea and yourself the chance you deserve, and ensure the continued future of the small business economy. 

Brett Derricott is a serial entrepreneur and an active angel investor. He's been recognized by Utah Business Magazine's Forty under 40 for his business acumen. Brett is the founder and CEO of Built For Teams, an HR intelligence platform that helps business leaders understand, manage, and grow their human capital.