Dealing With People Who Doubt Your Business Ideas

“I don’t think that your business is going to work”
“Your chances of success are very slim”
“I had an Uncle that tried to do that and failed”

Anytime you start your own business or take any risks for that matter, you’ll inevitably meet people who will doubt you. These people often mean well, but their negative comments can be a devastating blow to your self-esteem and your entrepreneurial spirit if you are not careful.

What makes things even worse is in some cases, the people who cast the most doubt on your business ideas are your friends and people who you care about. Some may not outwardly express their skepticism but secretly believe that your business won’t stand a chance.

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Photo By Sappymoosetree

When my wife and I started our online wedding linens business, we had many people who doubted that our idea would ever succeed. Even today, I can only count a few people who supported our business from the very beginning. Now that our business is generating a decent profit, I can finally document how we dealt with the doubters and the skeptics.

The Gun Slingers

Your idea is never going to work so don’t even bother wasting your time.

I call these people the gunslingers because they are always the first ones to shoot down your ideas. Gun slingers are complete pessimists and can suck away all of your excitement with a single derogatory comment. You’ll often find gun slingers sitting by the water cooler bitching and complaining about some aspect of their life whether it be their work or family. Even if you have a brilliant idea, they’ll inevitably find something negative to say to bring you down.

Every small business needs enthusiasm in order to thrive. So when you encounter a gun slinger, don’t even bother telling them about your idea. In fact, avoid talking to gun slingers altogether. Find someone positive to talk to and confide in them instead.

When it comes to starting your own business, the best people to talk to are other entrepreneurs and highly motivated individuals. Especially in the early stages of your business, speaking with positive and supportive people can further fuel your excitement towards your business.

Gun slingers don’t have the guts to try anything on their own so they always to try to bring other people down to cover up their laziness and lack of confidence. Keep a mental tally of who the gunslingers are so that you can later drop a few tidbits about how successful your business has become. I know it’s childish and petty but it can be very satisfying.

The Factoids

Did you know that 90% of start up businesses fail? Do you have any idea how competitive the wedding business is? Do you have any idea how many wedding vendors there are already? Do you know how small of a percentage you have of being successful?

The factoids are the ones that constantly remind you of how slim your chances are of being successful. They’ll quote industry wide statistics and failure ratios which can make your business idea seem silly and ridiculous.

When dealing with the factoids, you have to keep in mind that those facts and figures have absolutely nothing to do with you. Do those statistics specifically reference your name? NO!

All of those people who have failed in the past are just a bunch of numbers, a statistic. They do not represent you and what you bring to the table. You need to constantly remind yourself that you possess unique characteristics that can’t be quantified by anyone.

When my wife and I first started our business, we were one of hundreds of wedding vendors in just our local area. If we went by statistics alone, we would never have had the courage to even begin because statistically, our chances of success would have been one in a thousand.

The factoids can only quote statistics about the average person. But you are definitely not just average!

The Mockers

So how is your ‘little’ wedding linens business doing? What was it that you sell again?

Once you have launched your business, you’ll inevitably meet people who I term as the mockers. They’ll ask you questions about your business expecting to hear negative things about your sales. These people may not be doing it on purpose, but they secretly want to see you fail.

When we first launched our business, we had a few people who would routinely ask how our sales were doing. In the beginning, I didn’t really mind and I would tell them that we hadn’t made much money yet and that it would take some time for our business to take off.

After several months had passed though, these questions started becoming annoying since sales were slow. Pretty soon, some of these questions started coming across as mocking.

Acquaintance: So how’s your little linens business coming along?
Me: Our “little” wedding business is ok. Things are slow but progressing.
Acquaintance: Made enough to quit your job yet? What thingys do you sell again? It must be tough.
Me: We sell wedding linens and no we aren’t making much money yet jackass.
Acquaintance: I’m sorry?
Me: I said, “we aren’t making much money yet. Is that what you asked?”
Acquaintance: Oh, that’s too bad.

The mockers can get annoying after awhile, but it’s all the more satisfying when business does start to pick up. Try and take their comments as a challenge to fuel your enthusiasm.

Hold Your Head High

The most important thing when dealing with the doubters is to take everything they say with a grain of salt. There are too many variables for anyone to accurately predict the success or failure probability of your small business.

Now that my wife and I have gone through it already, we can wholeheartedly say that being successful depends more on your ingenuity, hard work and implementation methodology than the idea itself. So forget what the others are saying. Be creative and you can make anything happen.

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32 thoughts on “Dealing With People Who Doubt Your Business Ideas”

  1. Steve,

    What a great article and so very true. My wife and I started our own business nearly two years ago and we’ve received a lot of the the same type of ridicule, doubt, and pessimism. Your recommendations are spot on and I truly hope those entrepreneurs that come across this article take your suggestions seriously.

    I’ll tell you one of the things that caught me off guard with our venture was the lack of support we received from a lot of people I was certain would be enthusiastic and supportive of our project. In all honesty (excluding several members of our immediate family) some of the most supportive people we’ve encountered were complete strangers we’ve met online through social networks like StumbleUpon and Digg.

    Thanks for putting together such a great article that is so easy to relate to.

    1. Hi Ryan,

      It’s the lack of support from people that you care about that’s the hardest pill to swallow. Different people have different interests and sometimes you just need to find new people (strangers) that can relate to you better for what you’re trying to accomplish. Thanks for the kind words!

  2. Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading this one as it hit close to home thinking about when my business partner and I started our company.

    While I personally got more praise and encouragement from people around me, there were a few that were openly skeptical. In their defense their skepticism came out of ignorance more than anything, so they were quite easy to ignore, but it’s annoying just the same.

    It’s especially annoying because during the fragile moments of a new business idea or venture, it can seem that people with nothing good to say come out of the woodwork to speak the loudest and voice their unwelcome opinions.

    “We sell wedding linens and no we aren’t making much money yet jackass.” Jackasses indeed!

    It’s good to take all commentary in so you can see things from a different angle than your own, but never let others’ opinions stop you – especially if it’s clear they don’t have your best interests in mind or are obviously ignorant of what you are doing as a business. (Some people just want to see you fail because they themselves lack the guts and perseverance to try let alone make something happen)

    Like you said overcoming these type of objections by being successful just makes the success that much sweeter!

    Congrats for sticking it out and making something happen!

    I’ll be passing this post on to all those I know who are thinking about starting their own business or who have recently started – I’m sure they’ll enjoy this!

    1. Hi Xurxo,

      Thanks for passing the article along! You are absolutely correct in that there’s a fine line between skepticism and constructive criticism. You have to absorb all of the commentary and keep an open mind through it all. Sometimes the skeptics are correct but you still owe it to yourself to discover things on your own even if it means you will inevitably fail.

  3. Steve,
    This is true. I’d like to add that this is universal and applies not just to small business but anything, people, for some reason don’t want anyone else to succeed or be even happy, mostly, Great article

  4. Steve,
    When you become rich, the mockers you verbally illustrated so well, will be the very First ones to be kissing your ass, telling you how great you are, etc, trying to get what they can out of you,riding your coat tails, telling you about how they “supported you”,
    When this happens, and I feel it will, Beware of that, because when a bump in the road comes, and they do from time to time, they will be the first people to turn on you,
    I like that you called them mockers because it’s true.

    1. Hi Shea,

      I hope that your comment comes true. Realistically, I don’t need to be rich, I just need enough money to lead a comfortable life with the family. But if it does happen, I’ll remember that you supported this blog early on:)!

  5. Whew! I thought I was the only other one out there that with dealt with idiots like that. It’s nice to know that there are others that go through similar crap.

    The ironic thing is that they’ll be working for all of us soon. :)

  6. Hi Steve,

    Often the things that other people say are really about them, not about you. Sometimes they are cleverly disguised as “care” and “concern”, but it is really up to you how you want to deal with it. I’m glad that you and your wife are wise enough to take gulps of salt and go with what resonates with you best. :)

    1. Hi Irene,

      Never thought about it that way, but it makes complete sense. Most of the naysayers have never tried to create something on their own so naturally they are skeptical and afraid. Glad to have you back from your long hiatus!

  7. Steve,

    I always thought that all the nay sayers were from our small town. I was in the insurance business for 20 years and people would 2nd guess or challenge my answers or advice. Not that I ever thought I had all the answers but I did have a little experience. you eventually get to know who to stay away from and who to share your ideas with.

    1. Hi Dee,

      Yep. Eventually, you’ll establish your support network and circle of contacts, but sometimes the process can be painful and disheartening.

  8. I use the what the gun slingers and mockers say as “bulletin board” material. I love competition and see it as something saying I can’t do something (which I LOVE). Of course, I need to ensure that I’m grounded and do everything with a level head so as to not make a bad business decision, but that’s what’s great about my wife. She’s great at questioning everything and I pass all of my business thoughts through her for that reason.
    Great post!
    -HIB

  9. Hey Steve,

    Great article! Whenever we wanted to start something that normal people wouldn’t even think of doing, they always try to bring us down with their words. The best thing to do is to ignore them and always believe in our own capability. Thanks for the article and consider it stumbled. :)

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  10. Ethan says:

    Keep in mind that, since 90% do fail, there probably *are* serious flaws to be pointed out in the vast majority of small business plans. My first question to would-be entrepreneurs is usually “what is your plan for acquiring customers?” Very often this is not something they have spent the bulk of their effort on planning, nor will it be what they spend the bulk of their time executing. That’s going to be a problem for most of them. The second question is usually “how is your start-up phase going to be funded?” Only if they have good answers to those questions do I ask for any detail on the product or service they are offering, or their expense and revenue forecasts.

    That said, assuming that the 10% which succeed do so because their plans had *no* flaws is probably just as ridiculous. That 10% is more likely to be people who have failed before and learned their lessons the hard way, or who are quick learners that rapidly gain perspective and adjust to the realities they didn’t anticipate.

    It’s also a mistake to assume that the 90% that fail were a waste of time. Only if a small business creates a large debt that follows the entrepreneur, or destroys a friendship or family relationship while it fails, is an entrepreneur likely to truly regret their attempt. The rest learn a great deal and move on, whether to another start-up or to something more traditional. People with business experience and an entrepreneurial spirit make the BEST EMPLOYEES EVER. They understand the realities faced by their employer, they know what it means to be fully responsible for something, and they are intrinsically motivated to create value. That’s hard to beat with mere experience in most positions.

  11. way off subject here, …………………but
    lately, been so moved by the old Alice in Chains.
    Miss Layne.
    You?

  12. I hate those people, but what I hate more is that some of them probably stopped me from succeeding in a lot of areas in life.

    Even ‘failure’ is valuable, because it’s a learning experience. Many of the most famous entrepreneurs in the world didn’t even make it on their first go. They tried many things, before they eventually got to that which made them wealthy business men.

  13. I can so relate to the The Mockers and just about everyone else you mentioned for that matter. Instead of giving useful feedback or just wishing me good luck, they have to find a way to tear you down. Thanks for brining this up.

  14. Don’t let the turkeys get you down!! The minute you raise your head above the crow, you’re going to have tomatoes thrown at you! Great insights into the negativity we all deal with as entrepreneurs. I’ve found that the best way to handle this is to only share my dreams and successes with those willing to help and support me. For everyone else, it’s none of their business. All they want to do is keep you where you’re at so they don’t look bad.

  15. nickg says:

    there are awful people out there, don’t pay attention to them, ur success is in ur own hands.

  16. Sylvia says:

    Seriously– having people doubt your ideas, strategies, and basically self worth is the pits. My dad has been giving me flack about my new business, but I’ve decided to use that as fuel for my fire! Just helps me get where I’m going faster.
    -Sylvia
    Padrons

  17. I loved this so much because it is so true! Sometimes it feels like even when you are doing well the whole world wants to shoot you down. I started my adult life in a hostel for homeless teenagers and when I wanted to change my life and become an entrepreneur EVERYBODY laughed and would not take me seriously. Now I am successful people tell me I was lucky! I decided if this is what people think is luck then I could teach anyone how to be lucky and started my blog http://mattkinsella.com/blog-2

    Thanks for a great post!

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  19. Bonnie Pyle says:

    I am a stay at home mom who has an idea for starting a business. It’s going to take time to get this going (which I’m willing to do what needs to be done to get my baby out of the womb, crawling, then walking and running), but when you have family and close friends looking at your business idea like it’s cuckoo for cocoa puffs and telling others that you’re taking flights of fancy, it can be rather disheartening.

    So thank you for writing this post. It helps. A LOT! And I will definitely be looking for a group of people who will encourage me instead of passing negative judgment on me for an idea.

  20. Susan says:

    Your point about the mockers made me think of the story of David and Goliath. David encountered a mocker……in the form of his brother!

    1 Samuel 17: 17-30

    When David left the sheep he was tending and went to the battlefield to visit his brothers to see how the fight was going, he was told of Goliath and how fearful all the soldiers were of him. David kept inquiring about Goliath and asking about the rewards that would go to whoever killed him.

    David’s confidence stirred jealousy in his brother who put David down by asking, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those ‘few’ sheep in the wilderness?”

    Then David did what Steve suggests to do……..David turned away….

    Good advice! We need to turn away from those who would detract us.

    If David had let his brothers’ words get into him and hurt his confidence he may never have slayed Goliath!

  21. Thanks for this article. I too face a lot of doubters. Never mockers or anything so extreme as what you describe, but moreso people who just say that its been a long time now and I’m still not raking in money so I must be failing and it might be time to get a real job. People fail to understand that some business ideas take time to get off the ground and they get impatient. Particularly parents and girlfriends and close friends who are concerned about your financial future! I just have to keep telling them that I’m following my plan and I’m confident that I will be successful in time. You can see my product I invented and marketed and am building up at shaftfloat.com. One of a few major business ideas I’m working on! Don’t give up!

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