The scariest roller coaster in the world cannot compare with the fears associated with managing your own business. Owning a business is filled with many things to be afraid of, at every stage of your business, whether the business is struggling or wildly successful. Entrepreneurs carry the full weight and burden of their company, family, employees, customers, stakeholders, and others. Much like a roller coaster, the uncontrollable ebbs and flows of our business keep us guessing what’s coming next. We work long hours, succeed at all costs, always believing that if we just get over the next obstacle, our time, finances, and situation will improve. Fear comes from taking risks, and managing risk is an enormous part of the entrepreneurs life.
The fear of failure is at the top of everyone’s list, but failure of some kind is inevitable and all business ventures end at some point. I will discuss the fear of failure in a separate post. But for now, let’s examine the other common fears of entrepreneurs and expand the discussion to both our business life and personal life. In my work and interaction with other entrepreneurs, I have found the following common fears:
Top Fears related to my business life
- What if I can’t satisfy my customers, employees, or stakeholders?
- How will I make payroll or pay my bills and obligations?
- Do I really have the education, experience, and expertise to be successful?
- What if I make the wrong decision or miss a golden opportunity?
- How will I exit and finish the way I want?
Top Fears related to my personal life
- What if I disappoint my family or don’t meet their expectations?
- What if I have to file bankruptcy or lessen our lifestyle?
- Is the stress causing health issues or leading me to early death?
- What moments am I missing and what will I regret later in life?
- How will my friends or community perceive me if my business fails?
All of these are valid fears and legitimate risks to consider, but the common thread in every fear is uncertainty. Uncertainty comes from imperfect or unknown information making it difficult to predict future outcomes. Entrepreneurs take risks, and risk is the intentional interaction with uncertainty. There are no guarantees and no crystal ball to predict the future. The only action we can take to minimize risk is to improve our information and plan accordingly. And there is the rub, the biggest challenge for every entrepreneur: asking the tough questions, taking the time to analyze the scenarios, and having the tenacity to execute a plan for the future.
5 out of 10 businesses fail within 18 months is the statistic most widely accepted, and I am certain not one of them planned to fail. Those businesses failed to plan, failed to take the time to analyze their scenarios, and failed to get honest answers to the tough questions. They ignored their fears and were certain of their success without doing the work to minimize the risks.
Successful entrepreneurship is managing the risk / return equation. We have to take the risks, but we want to ensure the return is worth it. Every fear presents a risk that can lead to failure or propel us forward. If we rationalize, prioritize, and analyze each fear, and then to do the work in gathering the information to plan with contingencies, we greatly increase our odds for success and achieve the return we desire.