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6 Ways to Build Self-Confidence

There's no room for self-doubt when you're launching a company. Here are half-a-dozen ways successful entrepreneurs keep faith with themselves.

At some point in your entrepreneurial journey you're bound to feel doubt about your new venture, regardless of how sound your idea is or how well you execute. So what can you do ahead of time to ensure you'll continue to believe in yourself when times get hard?

In researching our book, Breakthrough Entrepreneurship, we found several sure-fire techniques that successful entrepreneurs use to bolster their confidence.  So here are a half dozen of those key tactics:

Follow the entrepreneurial framework.

You'll be legitimately more confident in your venture's chances of success if simply do your homework first: Brainstorm a truly great idea and test it thoroughly.  Understand your value proposition, and seek constantly to enhance it.  Recruit key stakeholders, and lead the whole venture with an insightful, assertive style.  There's a well-thought-out, replicable process to launching a company.  It works—and by not having to reinvent the wheel at each juncture, you vastly improve your odds of success.

Set big goals and take small steps.

Once you’ve identified a promising idea, break the big jobs up into hundreds of little tasks.  Plan what you want to have achieved in a month, a year, and two years, and hold yourself accountable.  Launching a new venture can be overwhelming, but if you break it down into manageable parts, it suddenly seems a lot more doable.

Skip the career track.

Our educational system encourages people to get on career tracks early.  But, do we really expect kids to learn to achieve by checking boxes and following a script—only to turn them loose on a society and a workplace that doesn’t have any such rules?  Opting out of that mad rush takes guts, but it can be the same kind of intestinal fortitude that enables to you take larger leaps of faith as an entrepreneur.

Obtain maximum information for minimum cost.

All else being equal, it's better to spend a little than a lot, and it's better to learn a lot than a little. So interview potential customers early—on the street if you have to! Track down experts—and get their opinions!  Try to sell your product—even before you’ve produced it.  You'll hear some hard questions.  Nothing lowers your risk or lifts you confidence like knowing that you've answered the tough questions early in the process.

Lower your overhead.

Reduce your risk some more.  Think of how many successful entrepreneurs live far below their means.  Warren Buffet is worth $45 billion and still famously lives in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,500.  Once you have a roof over your head and your family’s basic needs provided for, each additional dollar you spend brings diminished returns.  Moreover, having fewer inessential fixed expenses can reduce your fear and increase your self-confidence.

At the same time, set up a safety net.

What the heck, reduce your risk a bit more still, because knowing that failure won't be the end of the world can make you more likely to succeed. So, have a backup plan.  Leaving a job to start a new venture? Manage your exits. Still in school?  Take some courses geared toward practical moneymaking opportunities. Switching careers? Keep your annual professional licenses current and your continuing education up to date—just in case.

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Last updated: Mar 13, 2012

JON BURGSTONE | Columnist | Professor, UC Berkeley

Jon Burgstone was co-founder of SupplierMarket, acquired by Ariba for $1.1B. He now teaches at Berkeley, where he helped launch the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology. He is co-author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship.

BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist

Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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