Tightrope: How company you keep affects the one you own

— -- Hello Gladys,

After pondering the idea of starting my own business for several years, I finally launched a catering business that is doing very well. My problem comes in when I get around close friends and relatives. They are constantly reminding me that the economy is bad and my business can take a nose dive any day. Even my husband has joined the bandwagon along with my relatives. I feel really good about my business future; however, sometimes the people close to me make me have doubts. How can I get past this influence?

Annie K

Whenever you stray off the beaten path or decide to do things a little differently from what others feel is correct, you will be criticized or greatly challenged. Sometimes this behavior can be positive and can nurture you as you grow your business. Other times it can be negative and can stunt your entrepreneurial growth. Learn to recognize the difference. One form of criticism can push you to take a closer look at how you run your company and tighten up loose ends. The other is merely a verbalization of someone else's fears.

A man whom I will call Rick had dreams since childhood of owning his own business. When he became a casualty of corporate downsizing from his middle-management position, his first move was to turn his weekend hobby of cabinet making into a full-time business.

Rick prepared a working business and marketing plan to guide him. His business got off to a slow start. But after a couple of months he began to get a slow but steady increase of customers and income. Still, some folks thought he should be doing much better.

Rick was not prepared to handle all of the negative talk brought on by his decision. His wife and family kept reminding him that it would be better if he would find another job. His friends warned him that he could and probably would fail. They told him stories of others who had tried and failed at endeavors similar to Rick's.

If and when you encounter these kinds of verbal challenges, understand and remind yourself that these people are not telling you these things to "help you," although they really believe they are looking out for your own good. These people are speaking from their own fears of success and failure.

You can't afford to waste time trying to satisfy the fears of others. Instead, learn how to set boundaries. In fact, to succeed in business, you must set boundaries between yourself and the fear- based criticism of others. You don't need people constantly saying, "You can't, you shouldn't, or I wouldn't if I were you."

I suggested to Rick that he surround himself with other successful business people. Perhaps you should try that same thing. Join professional and business associations and organizations that will expose you to other people in their own business who can give you support and inspiration to continue on.

You, like Rick, need to offset the things that get you down with more encouragement and reassurance that you are on the right track. And although you both can expect some bumps along the way, the road will smooth out.

Gladys Edmunds' Entrepreneurial Tightrope column appears Wednesdays. Click here for an index of her columns. As a single, teen-age mom, Gladys made money doing laundry, cooking dinners for taxi drivers and selling fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds is founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh and author of There's No Business Like Your Own Business, a six-step guide to success published by Viking. Her website is www.gladysedmunds.com. You can e-mail her at gladys@gladysedmunds.com.