4 Fears That Can Paralyze Your Business Growth (and How to Use Them to Your Advantage)

12/30/2016 12:21 pm ET Updated Jan 11, 2017
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By: Brette Rowley

A quick Google search on entrepreneurship quotes yields the following results:

“I create. I take risks. I live my passion. I am an entrepreneur.”

“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.”

“Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical.”

“Being realistic is the most common path to mediocrity.”

In our society, we’ve built up the idea of an "entrepreneur" as a superhuman Mark Zuckerberg-style genius gazillionaire who is fearless, risk-prone, and eager for change. Yet, my experience both as a business owner and working with others is that it’s not so simple. Starting a business can be scary. Change can be intimidating. Confidence comes and goes in waves.

As with most stereotypes, the entrepreneur persona is only a small percentage of the reality of a business owner and perpetuating it only serves to dissuade future entrepreneurs from taking the plunge.

If you’re dreaming about starting your own business, don’t be discouraged by your fear or uncertainty. You are not alone.

Which of these fears paralyzes you and how can you turn it into motivation?

Fear of Failure

I had coffee with a client and friend of mine a few weeks ago and we were talking about the upcoming launch of her art studio. She was so excited about the opportunity to build a brand for herself and share her work, but was having trouble getting motivated to start. As we were talking about new websites, branding, and marketing strategies, she said something that stuck with me. “I don’t want to put all of this work in and then end up right back where I started,” she explained.

I realized as soon as she said it that this fear of failure is one that affects so many would-be entrepreneurs. The uncertainty of trying is uncomfortable, no matter how excited you may be about your new business and it’s human nature to be wary of risk.

But here’s what I told my client, and it applies to you too: If you make the choice to start, you will NEVER end up back where you are now. No matter what. You may fail, but you will have learned from it, developed new skills, connected with new people, and identified new opportunities in the process.

When I launched my first online course, I spent hours developing the videos, hosting the modules, and promoting the course. And my sales totaled zero. ZERO. Not a single student. I have never failed so completely in my life. But the lessons I learned when I look back on that experience led me to create a much more successful launch for my latest course, the Side Hustle Starter Kit.

So, instead of fearing failure, ​let it drive and inspire you. Share your goals and dreams with people so that they can hold you accountable. Connect with other professionals who are in your stage of business who can offer encouragement and support. And most of all, know that you’ll never be back at “square one.” If one thing doesn’t work, learn from it and keep moving.

Fear of Self Promotion

Very few people enjoy talking about themselves. We don’t want to brag or be seen as self-centered. That fear can become overwhelming when it comes to our businesses! Promotion is an integral part of business growth, and for entrepreneurs who run businesses on their own, it can feel awkward to promote themselves.

If marketing and promotion is your stumbling block, a shift in perspective is needed. First, focus on understanding your audience. Who is your ideal customer or client? What do they struggle with? What are their goals and dreams? When you have a full picture of your ideal audience, it allows you to tailor your promotions to be most relevant to them - meaning you are doing less “promotion” and more problem solving. Structure your promotions to provide value and solutions first, before asking for anything from your audience.

Finally, let others promote your business for you! Create a referral incentive program to encourage current clients to tell their friends about your business. Use testimonials in your marketing materials so that others can speak for you.

Fear of Commitment

I have a friend who wants to start a fashion and lifestyle blog. We first started talking about it over a year ago and she has yet to launch it. She has a ton of content, she’s purchased the domain name and a camera to take photos, and she’s gotten her social media accounts all set up. So what’s the problem? She’s been tweaking her logo for more than 6 months.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everything must be perfect when you launch your business. Finished is better than perfect. Your business will evolve. As soon as you accept the necessity and VALUE of constant evolution, you’ll build incredible momentum in your business.

That being said, you don’t want to jump in headfirst without a plan. The key is to make sure that you’re moving in the right direction. That’s why it’s important to start with a business plan, ​set clear goals, and then create a strategy to move forward. This will help you avoid running in circles and recreating work.

I speak from experience. In the first 12 months of my business, I rebuilt my website three times, revamped my service offerings twice, and completely restructured my business once.

If you’re obsessed with perfection, take time to refocus on the end game. Focus on the future to differentiate yourself from the rest of your market.

Fear of Success

As you’re making plans for your business, the time will come when the thought hits you - “What if this actually works?” Maybe you’re thinking that you’re not ready to quit your 9-5 or you can’t handle the workload that ​success will bring. Maybe the fact that your business grows will present logistical problems that you aren’t ready to face.

Use your fear of success to help you plan for its inevitability. Ask yourself what happens next and continue to plan for the next stage of your business. Look at potential limitations as opportunities.

There is no obstacle too large if you plan appropriately.

One of my favorite quotes comes from author John A. Shedd. He once said, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

You’re built to share your talents, gifts, and expertise with the world. Use your fear to drive you to get out there and do it. But don’t be discouraged if you have to come back into the harbor every once in awhile. When you do, you’ll be ready to take that fear and use it to your advantage. 

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Brette Rowley is a business coach for entrepreneurs and side hustlers whose mission is to empower people to build businesses that allow them to both live the lifestyle they want and make a positive impact on the world. For more information, visit www.bretterowley.com or connect with her on Instagram @BretteRowley.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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