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Barriers to Entry

How to identify (and overcome) what holds you back

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Barriers to entry is a term we tend to hear when we talk about a company entering a new market sector for a product or service, or a company deciding whether to start doing business in a new country. We don’t think of barriers to entry when it comes to ourselves and pursuing our dreams, but these barriers most certainly exist and apply to us as individuals.

When I was first thinking about leaving my stable and financially lucrative in-house position in corporate America to branch out on my own and become an entrepreneur, I was fearful. What if I wasn’t good at running a business? What if I didn’t make the same (or more) amount of money? What if I failed? I didn’t have enough confidence in myself and in my abilities while my husband, family and friends were all saying the complete opposite – you would be great at being an entrepreneur and doing what you love.

They were supportive. I was sabotaging myself. My barriers to entry where all in my head. Luckily, I didn’t allow these barriers to stop me, and I made the leap. It did take a little bit of time as I learned more about what was holding me back.

I have been a successful entrepreneur for a few years now and absolutely love what I do. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I often think back to those barriers; those thoughts I had that were holding me back. What if I had allowed those barriers to block me from pursuing my dream? Sadly, this is a reality for many, whether those barriers to entry are internal, like mine were, or external (such as healthcare, paying bills, etc.).

So, what exactly can we do to overcome these barriers? We tackle them one at a time, much like organizations do; we conduct an analysis, take a deep dive into each barrier, and then come up with a plan of attack to overcome them and achieve success. Here are a few ways to do just this.

What are the barriers? Identify what the barriers are. Give them a name and perhaps even a description. Instead of just saying, “I’m scared I won’t make enough money,” go one step further, “I’m scared I won’t make enough money to feel proud/to support my family/to pay the bills.” When you get clear about the barrier, you can get clear about how to tackle it. Plus, you can also decide if the barrier is a true hurdle, like needing healthcare, or a perceived barrier, like not having enough experience.

Why do these barriers exist? The reasons behind why these barriers exist are different for each of us. For example, we can both have a fear of not making enough money. For one of us, the fear exists because we are the sole income earner in the family. For the other, the fear exists because it plays into our feeling of not being good enough or successful enough. This deep dive into each barrier is the most important step. We need to work to understand what holds us back from pursuing our passions or from truly being happy. The soul searching that occurs here can help set you up for success if you do decide to pursue your passion.

How can you overcome these barriers? Once you’ve clearly identified the barriers, understood why they exist, then you can work to overcome them. This may require the help of external resources, such as a coach to help us evolve as a leader or elevate your way of perceiving the world. Other times, this may require time, such as setting up a plan to save money so that one day you can make the leap to follow your passion. Some barriers you may be able to overcome quickly, while others may take some time. Whatever the case, in this step, creating a realistic plan is key. Then tell a few close friends or family members about your plan so they can help hold you accountable. After all, what good is a plan if you’re not going to follow through with it?   

Once you decide to follow your passion and purpose, it’s natural for some of the same thoughts that were once barriers to crop up (i.e., the fear of a lack of financial stability during turbulent times, such as Covid-19).  To help minimize these thoughts and prevent the original barriers from cropping up again, it’s critical to set yourself up for success. A few ways to do this include:

  • Joining a community or collective of individuals who can support you and provide guidance and advice along the journey.
  • Continuing to work with a coach who can help elevate your leadership allowing you to stay focused on the goal and your purpose.
  • Giving yourself some grace. Following your dreams isn’t always easy and there will be times you feel like giving up. We all have down days. The key is allowing yourself the space to feel those feelings, process them, then get up and keep moving forward.
  • Staying attuned to and aligned with your values. Your values should serve as an anchor, helping guide decision-making. If it doesn’t feel right to you or if it isn’t aligned with your values, take that as a sign that you shouldn’t do it.

Following your passion and finding your purpose are never easy. If they were, everyone would be living their dream. Working to overcome the barriers to entry that exist, whether personally or professionally, takes time and dedication. But I promise you that what is on the other side is worth it!  

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