How to overcome it and start that business anyway…

Starting your own business holds the promise of time and material freedom. It is possible to start a business where the business concept is bankable, with an existing market and opportunity to scale it sustainably. Yet every new level has a built in new “devil”. These are limitations, challenges and constraints that need to be managed and properly addressed. Often the budding entrepreneur is high on dreams but low on resources; high on passion but low on planning; high on the end vision, but low on how to start. Starting a business requires a mastery of skills.

In addition to technical knowledge and familiarity with your industry, there is also a strong mental component. We’ll never know how many businesses never got started because the would-be founder lost their nerve at the last minute. In the past 15 years or so, I have had the privilege of working with a host of different kinds of businesses; business people and entrepreneurs. None were immune to the common challenges, or inoculated against the variety of fears they were facing.

Here are five common entrepreneurial fears, along with a few principles that may help you to be more prepared, robust and clear in your approach:

  1. Fear of starting

You’ve got a great business idea, you’ve shared with a couple of people and they think it’s viable, you’ve done some form of market research and can see the market potential and now it’s time to start. But you find yourself pausing, procrastinating, and over-planning. Rather than actually starting your business, you are still stuck strategising. This is the first fear that every entrepreneur faces, it’s the fear of starting.

Most entrepreneurs don’t know where to start when first setting their ideas in motion. Start out by finding someone who has achieved the goal you’ve set for yourself. Read about the person, the structure of their business and then reach out to see if they can offer advice or information. They are quite likely to give you the encouragement and push you need to press “go” on your operations.

  1. Fear of failure

This is certainly a common fear, and one that prevents many people from ever taking action. You might think that entrepreneurs, by definition, are people who either don’t have this fear or who are able to overcome it; yet truthfully, most entrepreneurs have it to one degree or another. It’s that little voice in your head that whispers all of the things that could go wrong. Whenever I notice the fear of failure creeping into my thinking, I consider the consequences of taking no action at all. In most cases, this ends up being a scarier prospect than the possibility of failing; I can at least learn from my mistakes!

“As an entrepreneur one thing that is guaranteed on this unusual journey is that nothing is guaranteed!”

One of the greatest challenges is learning how to distinguish the irrational fear of failure from the helpful, intuitive insight that something is not right and needs attention. I have found that the best way to tell the difference is by identifying whether or not the fear is general or specific. If it’s something specific, you can rationally analyse it. If it’s vague and general, it’s more likely to be a mental block that you need to power through.

The statistics around business failure can be disconcerting. A well-known statistic is that over 50% of new small businesses will not last beyond three years. This is why there are so many people searching for answers on how to become the few who make it through without failing.

Here is a great resource that will help to address fears you may face:

  1. Fear of the unknown

As an entrepreneur one thing that is guaranteed on this unusual journey is that nothing is guaranteed! This fear of the unknown is one which even the most successful entrepreneurs still experience. Any business can go up in flames; anytime; any day. Size and success doesn’t protect you from this fear because the future is unpredictable. Preparation, which includes having studied your market, audience and competition, as well as interacting with others, like mentors and investors, does help to considerably dial down the fear.

  1. Financial fear

One of the challenges of starting and running a business is that of funding. To tackle this problem, entrepreneurs seek funds from several sources; some look to family and friends and others externally, from investors and banks. These borrowed funds can be very scary for entrepreneurs especially when you realise that the ones you had previously borrowed are still yet unpaid.

Another financial fear entrepreneurs face is that of not being able to pay the bills – particularly those who have left the corporate world to be their own boss. Having left the comfort of regular paychecks, the reality of not having enough money to cover living and business expenses can be paralysing.

Our Advisory committee is led by Luvuyo Rani who is regularly recognised for his achievements in social entrepreneurship and having built a stable of 40 internet cafés in the Western and Eastern Cape. Yet he also began with serious financial challenges; skepticism by some and the real possibility of failing. Thankfully, he has modelled perseverance and successfully scaled his business.

Again, these two financial fears are very valid. It’s okay to be afraid of the debts that are hanging on your head and it’s totally human to be scared of being broke.

See also for a great resource on finding finance.

  1. Fear of inadequacy

Some would-be entrepreneurs never get past dreaming, paralysed by fears of inadequacy. They question themselves, their talents and abilities, as well as their products and ideas.”Do I have enough experience? Am I suitably qualified?” Rather than get bogged down in what you don’t know, give yourself credit for what you do and focus on these. Make a personal talent inventory and then list skills necessary for your business. If you find inadequacies, make a point to learn what you don’t know.

Consider attending one of these catalytic events: Pitch and Polish; #YouthstartCT; Workshops through SEDA; NYDA and local business incubators. Further, consult with mentors and successful entrepreneurs to gain perspective. Build a relationship with local business development organisations to establish a compelling and robust business plan.

Starting out as an entrepreneur is scary. That sense of the unknown, coupled with doubts about whether you’ve got what it takes, can leave you like a deer in the headlights and possibly immobilise you. You will only really learn by doing whatever it is you want to do. Ask yourself if the risk of facing your fears is preferable to the risk of giving up your dream. And if the answer is yes, go about equipping yourself to feel that fear…and do it anyway. Good luck!

** This article appeared in Your Business Magazine, and was supplied by Steve Reid who been involved in business coaching for the past 15 years with four years dedicated to the establishment of a successful business incubator in Port Elizabeth. He opened a Centre for Entrepreneurship for False Bay College in 2015; with a Rapid Incubator Hub launched in 2016.

Read of the rest of the issue here.