Dear Lauren,

I started my own business after I lost my job. The business has been struggling and never really got off the ground. I've been putting money into to it, trying to make it work. Now I am out of money. I feel like a failure, totally ashamed. I don't want to tell my husband or family. I don't know where to turn.

--Out of Money

Dear Out-of-Money,

I applaud the courage and confidence it must have taken to start a business after you lost your job. As you know as an entrepreneur, starting, breaking even, and turning a profit are all significant milestones in business ownership.

It sounds like you have four tasks in front of you. The tasks are of varying lengths and complexities. The first is to address the issue with your husband - and, in time, your family. The second is to address how you will handle your financial needs, including dismantling the business, taking care of debt, and managing present day expenses. The third is to address the feelings of failure and shame. The fourth is to learn what you need to learn from your business venture with 20/20 hindsight.

Addressing the issue with your husband may feel daunting, but it is important. At the very least, finances is a household issue. He also, in all likelihood, cares very much about you. If that is true, then it sounds like you have someone to turn to, but perhaps your shame is keeping you from doing so. In times like this, it is important to identify your support network. It may be a small circle at first as you feel embarrassed to share. Think of the one or two people, including and beyond your husband, in whom you can confide. Consider also getting the services of a therapist. An objective third party who is not related can help relieve stress, sort out feelings, and help you get back on track. If money is an issue, and you don't have insurance, check out universities or community mental health centers for sliding scale counseling. Virtual counseling sessions are also a possible way of spending less as therapists often offer ½ sessions.

Addressing financial needs can seem overwhelming, and you might need the help of a professional if you and your husband are not able to come up with a plan. Often banks have financial planners who can help steer you in the right direction or managers who can offer referrals. Do ask if the service will offer sliding scale assistance if necessary. You may need to seek employment in order to take care of expenses. You may feel this reinforces your sense of failure. Don't. Doing the right thing - taking care of expenses -- at the right time is always laudable.

Let's continue our discussion by establishing some context of business ownership. It is widely accepted that 1/3 of start-up businesses turn a profit, 1/3 break even, and 1/3 never get out of the negative earnings position. According to the Small Business Administration, 2/3 of business start-ups survive the first two years, and less than half survive four. I say this not to minimize your feelings; only to let you know that you are in good company. Failure is an essential component of success.

You may feel that embracing the failure as a part of your road to success is asking you to do a mental flip. It is. Accept that you made some decisions that led to results you wanted and some decisions that led to results you didn't. Resisting your learning process is akin to resisting growth.

Detach from your experience and look with curiosity at what happened as though it happened to someone else, not you. Challenge yourself to describe accurately what led to desirable and undesirable results. This is your life. Discover what worked for you and what didn't. Have the courage to learn from your mistakes. It doesn't mean you will never make a mistake again, but you probably won't make the same one. Never making a mistake means staying static; staying in the safe zone; not pushing through to the next level.

Best Regards,


About Author / Additional Info:
Lauren Trecosta is a Licensed Professional Counselor providing virtual Individual, Relationship, and Group counseling via SKYPE webcam and teleconferencing. In-office sessions are offered on a limited basis.