Anyone who has contemplated forsaking the perceived, if not real, security of employment to start a small business has come face-to-face with and overcome the greatest of all business challenges: the fear of failure. Countless would-be entrepreneurs have discontinued their self-employment pursuits for fear of losing too much – the risk being just too great. Everybody knows that.
But if you pushed through these trepidations and, against all odds, became a business owner anyway, you know that wasn’t the last time you experienced fear. Indeed, fear is so much a part of being a business owner that, in time, we recognize and accept fear as something that can be quite handy.
Not paralyzing fear, like when you’re ignorant of how to prevent or recover from danger. But rather the kind of fear that helps you seek excellence. The kind that motivates you to become more aware, knowledgeable, capable, prepared, decisive, and effective.
Remember these two things about fear: 1) it’s a shape-shifter, capable of appearing in many forms; and 2) successful entrepreneurs learn how to recognize and deal with fear in all its shapes. Let’s look at some of the manifestations of fear, followed by what each one might sound like.
First on the list is the name I’ve given to that first challenge mentioned earlier: The Entrepreneur’s Fundamental Fear: “What if I can’t cut it as an owner?” This is unremitting, cold sweat, cotton mouth, mother-of-all-fears in its default entrepreneurial shape. And it remains the most abiding throughout the ownership continuum. Now let’s meet the other forms of fear:
Terror: “What if I’m buying the wrong business?”
Fright: “What if I order all of this stuff and nobody buys it?”
Panic: “What if my pricing for this bid is too high, or worse, too low?”
Dread: “I hate it when I have to fire an employee.”
Trepidation: “I need a business loan; what if the bank turns me down?”
Anxiety: “How will I ever be able to compete with the Big Box competitors?”
Shock: “What do you mean our best customer signed a contract with a competitor?”
Even though you can never really eliminate fear, you can minimize it through performance. But performance only happens when you use the fear-fighting tools: awareness, knowledge, experience, training, planning, preparedness, decisiveness, and execution. Successful entrepreneurs aggregate these tools to give them courage, confidence, and, increasingly, justification for believing in themselves.
Armed with the fear-fighting tools, fear becomes manageable and a productive stimulus that can create opportunity. But if you don’t possess and deploy these tools, the fear you feel is probably well founded and actually giving you good advice.
The only way to make sure your fear is a motivator and not an immobilizer is through performance. And small business performance only happens when you’re armed with the fear-fighting tools.
Write this on a rock … Fear-fighting tools replace fear with its archenemy – performance.