Six ways to keep your business alive

Your start-up is more likely to succeed if you commit to a "failure is not an option" mindset.

By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- Starting your own company is a big challenge, but staying positive could be an even bigger struggle.

No matter what kind of business you have, if you are not committed to a "failure is not an option" mindset, you are setting yourself up for failure, says Neil Anderson, president of The Courage Group, a consulting firm for entrepreneurs.


Indeed, only two-thirds of new small businesses survive at least two years, and just 44 percent survive at least four years, according to a study by the U.S. Small Business Association.

To avoid becoming another start-up casualty, the right mental state is crucial.

So when the bills begin to pile up, and clients or customers are few and far between, don't be tempted to throw in the towel. Instead, keep your mind and mission on track.

Anderson offers these tips to help stay out of the failure trap:

Go mental. One of the most important elements to starting a successful business is being mentally prepared. Of course, skills, actions and good old-fashioned luck are also important factors, but it all begins with the right frame of mind.

To that end, stay away from people who are negative and may try to bring you down. Anderson admits that he fired his own girlfriend in the early stages of building his business, because of her pessimistic attitude (the relationship didn't work out either).

She would say things like "you used to make so much more money working for someone else," Anderson explained.

People can be negative simply because they are jealous that you had the courage to follow your own dream, not just talk about it, Anderson asserts.

Virtual reality. Although there will be many ups and downs, a light does exist at the end of the tunnel, and it is bright. By visualizing success, your actions will become more confident. And increased confidence breeds success.

Anderson advises entrepreneurs to think about why they started a business in the first place. Perhaps going back to work for someone else is not an option. In that case, just reminding yourself of the alternatives: being at the mercy of others controlling your life, playing corporate politics or reporting to incompetent bosses should be sufficient motivation to keep your mind right.

It's all about sacrifice. A big component of the "failure is not an option" mindset is knowing that certain personal or financial sacrifices will need to be made along the way in order to achieve your dream. Entrepreneurs who have made sacrifices and prospered did so because they realized early on that starting and building a great company comes with a price.

Risk is not a four-letter word. Keep in mind that success comes to those who recognize risk, are unafraid of it, and will execute on their ideas. If you are risk-averse, your chances of business survival will probably be slim.

"I cashed in all my chips, my 401(k), whatever I could... I was willing to bet it all," Anderson said of his consultancy firm, which he got off the ground in 2001.

A hungry dog hunts better. "My father said that to me at the outset," Anderson said. When clients or customers are few and far between and money is tight or nonexistent, successful past and future entrepreneurs will always find a way to drum up another sale.

When times get tough financially, you really have only two choices: decrease your expenses or increase your revenues.

A roadmap will lead you to success. A business plan, which is a written description of what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, is the entrepreneur's roadmap. It forces you to think about the entire operation and come to terms with the businesses strengths and weaknesses. Entrepreneurs who do their homework increase their chances for business success.

"Don't look at it as a hassle or burden, look at it as an opportunity to survive," Anderson said.

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