Every entrepreneur has doubts and fears, anyone who says otherwise is emotionless or lying.
Fear is a protection mechanism designed to keep us alert and prepared to deal with danger. Whether it is controlled or even rational is up to the individual. Entrepreneurs experience fear just the same as everyone else. The only difference is the ability to work through it or compartmentalize.
Don’t think that your friend who started out their own business simply glides around with an air of unbreakable confidence and certainty. Absolutely not! They experience so many of the typical fears associated with entrepreneurship.
What fears do entrepreneurs even have?
Start-up owners share most of the same fears everyone else has. The fear of embarrassment if things don’t work out. Imposter syndrome or that they’re not good enough at what they do. Making the wrong choices and not getting a re-do. Uncertainty, risk, failure, the unknown, financial security and so on and so forth. The difference is they must absorb those without the same protective measures garnered from being employed.
Entrepreneurs aren’t typically eligible for a lot of the employment insurance benefits available to the general public. Beyond that, you regularly have significant sums of your own money tied to the success of their venture with no guarantee. You have to be aware of your finances to know how long you can endure before being forced to make difficult choices. And these are just the money worries.
While the social concerns seem to pale in comparison, they are no less real. Everyone who has come up with an idea has met someone ready to say “I knew that wouldn’t work”. When the idea is relatively insignificant, that is fine but when it has your livelihood wagered upon it, you can’t help but experience the pressures attached. It is a wonder anyone even bothers.
The pressures certainly give credence to the claim that you have to be a little crazy and a lot courageous to start your own company. For all that can be said about entrepreneurial fear, Franklin Roosevelt may have nailed it best:
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to persist in spite of it.”
Knowledge eliminates ignorance based fears
While ignorance seems a crass choice of adjective, it illustrates the need to learn. Fears and doubts exist due to the unknown, uninformed or concern for the consequences of wrong decisions. Learning and research is your most useful light in those dark avenues. They reduce the unknowns and the fewer of those the better!
Conducting market research whether it is for a business plan, a pitch or purely to be informed can be the antidote to plenty of concerns.
Knowing your customer base, competitors and markets arms you with the information to make the right call or predict outcomes. Knowledge is what prevents you from advertising a Boomer product on TikTok. Beyond that simplicity, it gives you the option to be strategic.
If you know the competitors and market inside out, you know what will happen when you start-up. If competitors will react aggressively to you entering the market, you are prepared to combat it. Perhaps even use it against them? Even if you don’t, conducting the right research primes you to react.
Early successes build momentum
Entrepreneurs regularly feel some type of buyer’s remorse in the early stages… wishing you hadn’t embarked on this journey. It is the butterflies you get when going on a first date with no idea how it will go. With that in mind, early wins make a major difference.
In the beginning, every milestone seems a mammoth task until you complete it. However, upon completion it creates an energy and confidence. This fuels the next task and the next until you feel you are chugging along accomplishing much bigger goals than you started out with.
Understanding this, savvy repeat entrepreneurs will line up achievable goals up front. Signing for a premises, achieving the first sales or positive feedback from advisors or investors all validate your efforts. Validation from what you knowingly or unknowingly consider your peer groups and mentors eradicates the imposter syndrome we all recognize.
The future is less shocking when you have seen it before
Fortune telling is not a thriving industry but give it a shot anyway. Visualization can spare delayed reactionary time when a scenario you have foreseen arrives at your door. Rather than getting paralysed by fears of something happening, most entrepreneurs enact a “What do I do if this happens?” ethos.
Effective scenario planning or strategic planning is referenced by athletes in interviews thousands of times a year. “We knew what they were going to do and prepared for it”. You have heard it.
We alluded to it earlier regarding your competitors and markets but it extends to mishaps, financial concerns, employee incongruence and more. Imaging the scenarios and preparing a strategy for when they do come strengthens your position. Even in the most fearful situations, tools exist to think your way through it. A regular coping mechanism is to put the fear on a piece of paper and to write out 10 solutions to overcome that obstacle.
Creativity beats problems like scissors beats paper. It will always find a way. Learn to keep the creative problem solving tap open at all times.
Help is on the way
The fact that people regularly wage into self-employment thinking they have no need for help or refuse it due to pride is ludicrous. Enterprise boards, incubator units, bankers, coaches, investors, family and friends are all vying for your success for one reason or another. Leveraging their perspective and expertise can be the catalyst to new opportunities.
Entrepreneurship is not intentionally an isolated place and nor should it be. Nobody gets to where they are without some help from mentors, supports and solid sounding boards. These connections bridge gaps into new networks, between a solid idea and a tenable business and, most regularly, between tentative, timid hope and affirmative confidence. Worth investigating?
Mistakes and failure matter if you hide from them
Right from the off, accept there will be failure. It may come by way of mistakes, oversights or otherwise; it is inevitable. You may fear it but that solves nothing without the right action afterwards.
Start-up owners quickly learn of their own fallibility and ought to accept it. To not acknowledge your mistakes is to accept the conditions that led to them.
Entrepreneurs humbly interested in success accept that mistakes happen, investigating the why and figuring out ways to remedy them. They understand that every mistake that is not catastrophic is just a blip on the way to winning. It is the play that comes after the failure that matters.
Without furnishing you with various failure mantras, it suffices to say that early admittance of a problem, failure or mistake allows for a quicker cure. Similarly, attitude is everything when it comes to the fear of failure. Trusting in your problem solving abilities means when it does go wrong; you have the skills to overcome.
Fear is a fuel to the initiated
The whole purpose of fear is to defend yourself. Your adrenalin system kicks in to expand the air supply so your muscles can react faster in a fight or flight response. Your body literally gives you the supplies needed to fuel a response to an impending threat. How you use the fuel is entirely your decision.
Entrepreneurs, particularly in the early stages, encounter fears most regularly. Out of pure determination, they persist and grow without recognizing that the adrenalin released from fear may have had a part to play.
Accepting you have a fear helps to rationalize it but do so with the knowledge that it may come in handy. The next fear you feel, assess what is happening in your body and what it is preparing you for. For the entrepreneur, harnessing that fear and fuel is the name of the game. So long as you are not beholden to it, it can stimulate positive results!