In the world of the Entrepreneur fear is always present. The Entrepreneur is always fearful of their venture failing, losing important clients or losing the money to continue and to indulge in online pokies. These fears are actually based in reality. Studies do show that 75% of new ventures will fail within the ten year mark. However, the true Entrepreneur will persist in spite of these fears.
A successful life and business can also produce anxiety. The founder of Chobani, a very large and successful yogurt company claims that fear and anxiety are present every day. The knowledge that the success or failure of the company can affect so many lives.
In the modern day we have become quite used to short-lived businesses, especially in the start-up movement. The consequences of failing in a business can be very serious for the entrepreneur and for anyone else connected to that business. They may have to declare bankruptcy, could lose their homes and their reputations. Therefore, failure is what most research has looked at when determining what prevents people from becoming entrepreneurs.
However, there is some research that suggests that fear can also actually motivate people to push forward and work harder to achieve success. In one study over 60 entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom and Canada were interviewed. All were either in the process of establishing their businesses or were fully operational. The study looked at the idea of fear as being an emotional reaction to a perceived threat to one’s success or achievement. A state of being, not a personality trait.
The study found a number of issues leading to fear which kept repeating themselves with all of the entrepreneurs in the group and has subsequently been found in other studies.
- Financial Security
- Ability to secure funding for the business
- Ability and self confidence
- Potential of the idea
- Threats to social esteem
- The project or venture’s ability to come to fruition
- Opportunity costs
However, it is important to qualify the source of the fear as not all fears, it seems, are created equal. For instance, it was found that anxiety arising from financial concerns like the ability to acquire the money for the venture, the weighing up of opportunities, or to do with personal financial security were viewed as something more positive and related to the entrepreneurs’ determination in reaching their goals.
The entrepreneur having taken up an opportunity and now thinking about that choice and, missing out on other opportunities, will be more motivated and persistent in pursuing the successful outcome of their venture. The same was true for money concerns. These money issues motivated them to be more determined and to put in more effort to achieve their goals.
On the other hand, worries concerning the Entrepreneurs’ personal aptitude to succeed in their venture or worries concerning the actual idea itself caused them to become less positive and active. The main activity becomes one of constantly going over the numbers and double guessing themselves. The pace slows down, and the primary focus is on not making a wrong decision. Some Entrepreneurs said that instead of being proactive and speaking with clients or trying to attract more customers the time is spent analyzing what to do or not to do.
The fear of failure can also determine the goals and plans that entrepreneurs will aim for. If the fear is excessive they may go for an easy task, one that is easy to achieve, or they may go for a goal completely out of their reach. This will make it easier for them to accept and rationalize their failure. No matter what, the Fear of failure will impact a person’s choice when setting goals.
It was found that fear also produces an overcommitment to a particular goal or idea, even when there is evidence that strongly suggests that this will produce a negative outcome. It seems that in the presence of fear there is a tendency to stick to a chosen path and continue to invest in spite of a gloomy forecast.
It is important that entrepreneurs master the skills necessary to deal with the fear of failure. Here below are four ways to help entrepreneurs to use fear of failure to their advantage.
Controlling and Self-monitoring of Emotions
Self-awareness and the ability to understand how your feelings can influence your thoughts and how you behave is part of what is called Emotional Intelligence. We are all situated in different places on the emotional intelligence scale. Some are more able to recognize when a specific mood is affecting how we view things. In a low mood, things will appear more negative. It is important to recognize that the negative way in which we are viewing things may have little to do with the projects and more to do with our emotions. Emotions are transitory and it is important to be aware of this.
Becoming more self-aware is a skill that can be learned. Keeping in touch with moods and feelings and learning how they can impact your behavior and decision-making process. This self-monitoring will help to limit or reduce the possibility of poor decision making and having negative emotions interfering with your goals.
Actively looking for ways to improve things, sifting through and problem solving is great for reducing anxiety. It is empowering and gives a feeling of control and reduces fear. Intuition is an important way on which we sometimes base our most important decisions, that gut feeling. Intuition is based on feelings rather than thoughts. It is useful to pay attention to these as they may be helpful to entrepreneurs in recognizing errors or flaws in their ideas.
Problem solving as a technique for reducing fear does work. However, studies have found that when fear arises in connection with the business idea itself, the technique of using problem solving to reduce the fear is inhibited. It is, therefore, especially important to make a conscious effort not to dismiss the problem and to be proactive and initiate problem solving.
Education and learning are great ways of overcoming fear. Learning and acquiring new and updated information will help to overcome the fear of failure. Entrepreneurs should constantly seek new and updated information concerning their businesses. This could be information concerning new computer software or new ways of financing their ventures. Many entrepreneurs continue to do research and to liaise and learn from professionals and mentors.
Learning can be empowering. It will increase confidence and reduce doubts in one’s capabilities and fear of failure. However, there are no guarantees and fear is always present. As an entrepreneur the risks and challenges are always there. Continual learning is always necessary as you can never have all the information.
Many entrepreneurs stress the importance of seeking support from mentors who are in the same or related business. This is a key factor. When starting a new venture, entrepreneurs, struggling with the fear of failure, need the support of mentors and networks, to encourage them and for reassurance. This support is useful in that it encourages the tools of self-awareness, problem solving and learning.
The fear of failure forces entrepreneurs to search out people and networks that can help you learn more, be more educated and prevent you from making mistakes. Learning from those who have already been there is a powerful tool in overcoming feelings of negativity. They can show you the way and also give you constructive criticism.
Many entrepreneurs in the beginning of their journey will benefit from mentoring from those more experienced. This way they will learn that what they are feeling and worrying about are all ‘normal’ and expected. They will also learn which issues they should focus on and which will just work themselves out with time.
The research shows that fear of failure is just part of the life of an entrepreneur. It can impact decision-making, behavior and motivation. One consequence of motivation from fear is the higher levels of stress which it can produce. This can affect one’s health in a very negative way. So, knowing that fear will always be present, it is important for the entrepreneur to develop the skills and tools to manage it.