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Fear of Failure In Starting Your Business?

Updated on July 21, 2013

Do You Need Some Paralysis Analysis?

Fear and Control:

The definition of fear is “the emotional effect of absence of personal control”. That’s it. Think about it. If you experience fear, it’s because you lack control over your situation, or at least you believe you lack control over your situation. But think about this. . . How many things do you really have control over? Do you have control over your job and job security? Really? Are you sure? I really don’t know anyone who has a job that is totally in control. In fact, in most jobs, we are in less control than ever!

Fear In The Corporate World Can be Worse

When I worked for a large retailer a number of years ago, they wanted and demanded perfection and success. Too many of their management people ruled by fear with the attitude that any failure was unacceptable. When something went wrong, they wanted a head on a platter. To protect yourself in this environment you had to reach goals and never make a mistake that you couldn’t hide or in the bosses case, blame on someone else. As a result, the organization would try very little of anything new, revolutionary or innovative. This is where Walmart passed up a lot of other retailers including one I worked for. Can you imagine the stress and the ultimate difference in an organization like that vs. a retailer like Walmart which encouraged wild and crazy ideas? If they failed, everyone moved on and learned something without wanting to punish someone.

Too often in corporate America (and even small business where the owner feels he is a dictator of his/her little empire), what happens is the tiniest things get covered up. The blame game reigns supreme and whoever is most effective at maintaining the image of perfection wins! This all leads further to higher turnover, and even falsification of data and a cover up of what is truly going on. Management never sees the real world because they aren’t allowed to. The environment won’t permit it to even exist. Management lives in la-la land, because they never are allowed to see true reality. It is all camouflaged or covered-up out of fear and recriminations (otherwise known as documented warnings or poor salary reviews).

Knowledge Offsets A Lot Of Fears

So when we talk fear, let's be honest about the fact that in your own business, much more will be under your own control. And while you’re considering all of this, if you want to minimize your fear, work to learn and get control over as many factors as possible. Knowledge helps offset a lot of fears. Naturally this comes from information and informing yourself. Take the power out of fear by understanding the things you don’t understand. Research all the potential outcomes (both good and bad) so you genuinely understand the risk of failure and benefits of success. For starters, read my book, “A Line Out The Door.” While it is not a “How To” book, it is a book that talks about a lot of the mistakes typically made. Educate yourself about the mindset, attitude and strategies that are critical in your success. If only I had my book when I started out, I would have saved tens of thousands of dollars in mistakes. Reading my book should address some fear! So what else is there in the way of fear for you?

  • Remember that failure is NOT inevitable. As Jim Rohn says, “Inevitability is being 200 feet from Niagara Falls in a little boat with no motor and no oars.

Are You Really Afraid of Failing Or Could It Be The Fear of Being Labeled A Loser?

I would much rather fear the results of my own decisions and work in my business than fear the cover-up and blame game environment from a JOB! Maybe you’re one of those people who are so deeply invested in their own past reputation and ego that you would rather avoid new opportunities for success rather than risk even the possibility or embarrassment of failure. Your reputation and ego came from whatever power you thought you had in the corporate world. It's a bit of a mirage. If you honestly believe that you'll be labeled a loser, you are dead wrong. Being a loser is never trying. Being a loser is when you’re knocked down and you never get up. “It’s not being down; it’s staying down” that makes you a loser. True failure is never trying.

Are You Afraid Of Losing All Your Hard Earned Money?

Losing the money we've worked so hard to accumulate is a rational concern, but a corporation is our government’s way of protecting your liability so that you and America can stick your neck out and take a chance. Structure your business so that you are incorporated and reduce that fear element first. Yes, failure can and will be unpleasant and a downer, but it is not life-threatening. Create a contingency plan or Plan “B” scenario – Work to minimize the downside. Daring to fail doesn’t mean you have to risk losing it all. If you manage risk wisely, you can follow through with your dreams while leaving a bit of a safety net.

Failure Should Not Be Feared.

Every time you fail, you’ve hopefully learned something. In business, if you’re not failing at something, you’re probably not doing anything. Look at the game of baseball. In baseball at the major league level, if you fail at bat 6-7 times out of 10, you’re probably an All-Star. Failure is not a single dramatic or life-ending event. Failure is a series of errors in judgment repeated too often!

The lessons I’ve learned through my years of business have played a critical part of my education. I’ve probably learned more from them, than my successes. Somehow you remember the lessons that come from failure over the lessons that come from success. In school, our teacher might tell us you’re going to do it again and again and again, until you get it right. This lesson applies to starting a business too! Only in business, the final grade doesn’t come till much later after you’ve made a series of good and not-so-good decisions. You make adjustments to your failures as you go along and you work to have your business plans adjusted from what you learn over and over again, until you get it right. Sounds a lot like writing an important paper for school doesn’t it?

I believe in many cases, the fear of taking the plunge and starting your own retail business is fear of the unknown. If it is fear of the unknown, I believe you can deal with that.

I think in the case of starting a small business, fear is not knowing exactly how to go about some of it. So it becomes easier to do nothing. So why not begin with a plan? The plan itself will take you in “baby” steps and you will gradually learn how you will go about it. Remember “baby steps” and “Bill Murray” in the movie, “What About Bill?” You won’t have all the answers at the beginning. No one does. Take it topic by topic. What you will sell and why, location and lease terms, expenses one by one. Break it down. It will all come together. Think about it. . . a business plan at it’s most basic is an explanation of how you will go about it.

The fear of failure is possibly the most powerful force holding people back from their true potential. Are you one of these people?

The Bottom Line:

Do you really want to go through the rest of your life and look back and say, “I wish had started my business, I could have been successful? I should have taken the leap.” Yes, you might be able to live a quiet and reasonably happy life, but you are unlikely to truly make your own unique mark on the world.

If you understand what starting and owning a business is all about and if you know who you are and what you are not, then starting and building your own small business will be one of the most enriching experiences of your life. The very best way to reduce fear and build some confidence at the same time is by taking some action. When you do, you’ll begin gaining experience, knowledge and insights you never had. Everything is hardest the first time. Start off with baby steps. Baby steps help build your confidence until your fear becomes a bit more tolerable or manageable. Don’t let your fear of failure allow you to lose out on one of the signature differences and values that our country offers. Don’t let it allow you to miss out on a sense of accomplishment that will be like no other, second only to watching your own children grow and succeed.

©2011 Retail Redefined and RetailRichez All rights reserved.

One Last Suggestion If You Move Ahead With Your Own Business

Don't Transfer The Fear Environment To Your Business!

If you were a part of this type of environment, you may be natural or even tempting to create this type of culture in your own business. If or when the day comes you go into your own business, do NOT allow this environment to flow downhill to your people as well. Before long they are hiding ideas, mistakes and failure's from you!


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