Being an active writer on entrepreneurship gives me the privilege of meeting many active and motivated business leaders that have achieved success or are working towards it. I have learnt that really anyone can achieve their business goals, irrespective of what background, what funding or even what idea they have. If the person has researched a problem, has created a product or service to solve the problem and has found a way to make a profit in the process, then chances are that the person has begun building a successful business. One of my first questions to them is, “How did you go about beating your fear of the unknown?”. In fact, many people who wish to start a business do not do so because they are afraid, not because they wouldn’t like to do it.
Being afraid of failing
This is collectively the biggest fear amongst wannabe entrepreneurs. It is understandable; who wouldn’t be afraid that after so much hard work, so much investment and so much sacrifice, the return is non existent? I was afraid of failing in many of my first start ups and I often wondered whether it would be a better idea to choose a “safer” option and be employed instead.
In order to start beating your fear of failure, you need to define your fear. What exactly would define a failure for you? A failure could be as small as losing a sale or as big as being bankrupt, but in each case there are things you can do to either prevent failure or to be in a position where failure is not the end. If you speak to any successful entrepreneur they would mention a list of failures in their history. Richard Branson had Student magazine which failed, Walt Disney failed as a journalist, for not having imagination no less, Tim Ferris got his book rejected by 26 publishers. The list is endless. Failure is not the opposite of success; if you identify how and why you failed and use the lessons to be better next time, then that failure is not something to be afraid of. If you blame everyone and everything else for the failure and don’t learn anything to improve yourself from it, then yes, that type of failure is something you should be afraid of.
There is a lot you can do to beating your fear of failing. Knowledge is your greatest ally and today you have an unparalleled opportunity to learn how to be a successful entrepreneur. The web is full of useful guides of ways to safeguard yourself before taking the leap of entrepreneurship. Limit your exposure and debt to what you could afford if the company did go under. If you do not have sufficient funds in that way, seek investors, grants or get your customers to pre-pay for your product through crowd funding. As you increase your knowledge you will learn ways to help you not fail, and also ways to protect you in case of a failed business.
Not having the necessary skills
In the same way that no one is born a doctor, a lawyer or a bus driver, being an entrepreneur and starting a business is not something you’re born with. Sure, if you have entrepreneurs in your family it is easier and if you have been taught all your life how to be successful at business you would probably find it easier, but it doesn’t mean the rest of us have no chance. Beating your fear of not being smart enough or having the necessary skills or not being the best is just your brain giving you excuses so that you do not go through the effort of learning. Who controls your brain? So do something about it.
If you postpone starting a business until you create the perfect product or service, then you are in for a long wait. No one can create a perfect product or service, however if you create a mediocre one you can perfect it as you go along. The secret is to start and learn as you go along. The best way you will acquire business skills is through experience. That is the knowledge you will always keep with you. Just remember these three letters: MVP – minimum viable product. If your product is good enough to garner a market, you can invest your profits to improve it. If you can’t afford to launch a website where people rent their beds, rooms or houses to other people, then just hire your inflatable bed to conference attendees and see how they like it.
Everything could go horribly wrong
That is a big one! If you started a business the world might move from its axis, major competitors will make it their sole intention to destroy you and your family will disown you for being crazy and not becoming a surgeon. So many things could go wrong if you started a business that, in comparison, swimming with sharks appears less risky. Take a minute to consider this fear. Yes, everything could go wrong, but the chances of that happening are so minute that they are negligible. Think back at your life to this point, how many times did things go wrong? How many times did everything that could go wrong, actually go wrong?
Whatever your answer is, you’ve made it till here. You’ve coped, you’ve adapted and you’ve survived. Tomorrow is an unknown and you are beating your fear of the unknown by facing tomorrow everyday. When you start a business you should draft a business plan to help you prepare for the unknown. I can assure you that in reality more than 65% of the plan will turn out differently. Your skills, your partners and the many people you will meet in your entrepreneurial adventure will be there to support you to overcome challenges and become successful.
Beating your fear starts by believing in yourself and never giving up.