Roughly 400,000 businesses will launch this year. And roughly 360,000 businesses will fail this year. The failures will fail for one simple reason: owners who think business is all about coming up with a great idea for the “perfect” product or service.


Perhaps you’ve heard people talk about ideas. “I’ve always wanted to go into business for myself. I just haven’t come up with the right idea yet.” Perhaps you’ve even said these words yourself.

But an idea is not a business. Of course you have to have a product or a service to have a business. The problem is not the idea itself, or even the search for an idea. The mistake happens when people come up with the big idea and then stop there.

Oh, these would-be owners might sink a lot of money into developing or producing their great new idea. But they usually never consider how they’re going to get people to buy their new product or service. Cool ideas are glamorous.

Selling isn’t glamorous. That’s the hard, dirty work most people hope to avoid. The dream goes something like this: surely the right idea will spare truly great entrepreneurs from having to sully themselves with such a banal thing. If you build it, they will come, right?

The reality is that you must develop a sales process or your business will sink. It’s like building a car without any wheels. It can’t take you anywhere.

You have to get comfortable with the idea of making sales. You have to stop seeing the sales process as something that is frightening or sleazy. Building a successful business requires a complete mindset shift. The idea isn’t going to make you rich. Selling will make you rich.

In fact, I often tell people who say they want to start a business to try going into commission-only sales for another company first. It will help you understand the sales process, which includes knowing which activities actually generate money, and which activities just waste time.

If you can’t put yourself out there when someone else is developing the product, handling all the marketing, supporting you with a customer service team and doing all the accounting, then how will you do it when you’re the only person around to handle all of these things? Spending a year or two working on commission will also teach you a thing or two about your tolerance for risk—you don’t really want to go into business for yourself if the lack of a steady paycheck is going to give you a heart attack.

Is it hard work? Absolutely. Building a business is hard. It’s harder than having a job. It’s harder than going to school. Building a business requires hours of effort. It won’t be all about following your passions. It won’t be all about doing what you love (unless you happen to love sales). You can build a sewing business if you want to sew, but don’t kid yourself. Sewing won’t take up the bulk of your work day. Selling the service will take up the bulk of your work day.

Embrace the work. If you do, you’ll get to be one of the 40,000 entrepreneurs who will stay in business this year!