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STARTUP

Fear Is a Four-Letter Word
 

The No. 1 factor that prevents entrepreneurs from starting a new company or meeting goals is fear. Simple ways to check your fears at the door.

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I interview entrepreneurs every week for my radio show. I also coach business owners over coffee and cheap bar food. The recurring theme across these conversations: overcoming fear.

We all have fears. But the good news is they're generally easy to overcome. Just look beyond them. Think it's easier said than done? Here are the common entrepreneurial fears I see and how to attack them:

Fear of Failing

This is the most obvious entrepreneurial fear: What if the business isn't successful? What if it doesn't work out? What if I end up living on the streets? The stats you hear about the likelihood of company failure would put this fear into any entrepreneur's mind. It's also the one you are most familiar with from the days of taking tests and turning in projects at school.

What to Do About It

Understand that every start-up is a failure at some point. If you look back on the original business plan, a company rarely, if ever, follows the plan as it was conceived. The difference between companies that succeed and those that fail is their ability to course correct. Make sure you pay attention to what's working and what's not, and continually work to capitalize on the positive.

Fear of Success

Believe it or not, success is some entrepreneurs' biggest fear. A hesitant salesperson is actually afraid that if he makes the sale, the company won't deliver on the promise he's made. Success brings the requirement to perform, to fulfill the obligation, and to manage scarce resources in an attempt to satisfy demands. Many companies fail because they simply can't service the demand, and their customers move on to a competitor.

What to Do About It

Find a fellow entrepreneur who is in a similar space. He or she has been there before and will have connections and advice to help you through. Look for resources you can borrow: an industrial kitchen if you are making a food product or a company's excess office space; or rent another company's equipment to get the job done.

Fear of Starting

One of my colleagues once gave me some great advice about getting started on a big task. She told me, "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer, "One bite a time."  OK, it's a little creepy, but you get the point. Often we are so overwhelmed by the task ahead of us because it looks too big and daunting that we just don't start.

What to Do About It

It may sound simple, but just simply start! If you are going to write a book, write 350 words a day and you are writing about a page. If you are going to start a company in a space you have never been before, find a mentor or spend some time interning with a company you respect. Do something small today for the future you want tomorrow.

Fear of Loss

This fear grips entrepreneurs who have built something up and are afraid to make a change or go in a new direction. They are afraid that the new direction will put what they already built in jeopardy.

What to Do About It

Realize that the second you stop innovating your company, you are already slipping. There is no such thing as maintaining the status quo in the entrepreneurial or small-business space. If you think you are afraid of losing what you already have, then know that unless you take some risks, you are already headed down that path.

Entrepreneurs are a resilient breed. You know how to take a need, problem, or bad situation and capitalize on it to build something great. If you can remember that your entrepreneurial instincts make you more likely to succeed and to learn from a failure, you have nothing to fear.

Last updated: Feb 14, 2013

ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 three years in a row. Holtzclaw advises clients on the whys of business--why customers buy, why teams work, and the all-important "entrepreneurial" why. He is the author of Laddering, and his weekly radio show, The "Better You" Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. To learn more about Holtzclaw, visit ladderingworks.com or e-mail eholtzclaw@ladderingworks.com.
@eholtzclaw




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