Fear of starting a business

By Palesa Mabidilala  - YGAP Country Director, South Africa

When people think about starting a business, a number of thoughts come to mind. Freedom to do my own thing, freedom to own my time, no more crazy bosses. But not all thoughts are positive. There are thoughts of being broke, losing assets, changing lifestyle, failure and the list goes on. We have been fed ideas by the media or people we know who have ventured into business and it can all of a sudden become a very overwhelming experience.  

I have worked with numerous entrepreneurs and all of these thoughts are valid, because most entrepreneurs have experienced them in one way or another. And yet they are still in it. They still do it. They still push forward. Because there is something incredible about living your dreams and fulfilling your destiny. 

It’s difficult to take the plunge and uncomfortable to face uncertainty. We start to create excuses for ourselves to justify our inability to act. If you are holding back on doing something for yourself, then these excuses will be very familiar to you. 

   1    My idea isn’t good enough 

We are always waiting for the next great thing, the next ‘innovation’. The word, innovation itself has become synonymous with a new product, a new invention, but this is a misconception. To innovate is to do things differently. Whether it’s doing something faster, better, cheaper, it’s doing it differently and telling everyone why your product or service is better, because you did it differently. Some of the most successful companies are based on refining earlier ideas and innovations. 

   2    I’m too scared  

I hate to break it to you, but you will never stop being afraid. Of course we have fears - we are not psychopaths. Fears guide us, but they can also cripple us and hold us back. Don’t try and kill your fears, they will just be replaced with new fears and you will be in a constant battle with yourself.  

The key is to act in spite of fear. Acknowledge your fears and act anyway, because our actions are the only things we can control, not the ‘what ifs’. 

   3    I’m not good enough – don’t have the right skills, contacts etc. 

You don’t need a degree to become an entrepreneur, as evidenced by numerous and successful entrepreneurs including Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Ray Kroc, Coco Chanel – the list goes on. Everything you need is within reach. To do your job well, you had to learn a skill. To run a household, you had to learn a skill. There is absolutely nothing that you do today that you didn’t have to learn to do at some point in your life. If you need to learn a skill, you can find someone to teach you. Read, intern, volunteer - do something! We learn by doing, so get up and start learning. The more you do it, the better you become and the better you become, the more attractive you become to other people and start building the right contacts to help you do more of it. Just do it! 

   4    I need funding to start. 

As an ex-financier, this was something I heard too many times - “I can’t do anything without money.”  I can assure you, you are unlikely to get funding if you have nothing to show for it. If you can’t show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to prove how great your product can be, then you are not worth the investment. To be an entrepreneur, you need to master the art of making the most of what you have. Start small to prove that your product or service can work. That will at least show the funder potential, and money will follow.

   5    I don't have the time. 

Really? The truth my friend is that you don’t know how to prioritise. You make a choice about how you want to spend your time. You choose to do the things you do with your time. If you need more time, then you are going to need to start prioritising.  

   6    I don’t know what business to start 

This is a big one for most people. Whenever I host workshops on starting a business, this question seems to come up a lot. What business should I start? Where am I likely to be most successful? My advice? Choose something you love, something you are committed to, something that you would do even if you weren’t paid to do it. That is always the best business, because you will do it even when times are tough.  

   7    It’s too risky. 

As an entrepreneur, I can only say to you, if it isn’t risky, it would be boring and that just isn’t worth it. This is an uncertain journey; you just need to trust that you have the grit to get through all that life throws at you. 

   8    I need everything to be ready before I do it 

One of my favourite lessons was delivered by T Harv Eker when he said “Sloppy success is better than perfect mediocrity.” I had my ‘aha’ moment because I realised I was waiting for things to be perfect before I could make my move. Now I understand that perfection is only achieved by doing, because as you do more, you do better. You can never achieve perfection waiting to offer your product or service. The market determines that. You need to have a version of your product or service that is good enough for the market to test and give you solid feedback on - then you keep perfecting it. I don’t know a single successful entrepreneur who started out perfectly. Each one of them had to learn by doing, that is just the way it works. So don’t sit on it because it isn’t perfect. Remember, sloppy success! 

   9    It will be too embarrassing if I fail. 

Failure can be really embarrassing. I mean cringe-worthy stuff. At times you just want to jump into a hole and bury yourself over an embarrassing moment. From every failure though, I have learned great things about myself. For me, failure has become my greatest asset, because failure is feedback. I wouldn’t know as much as I do if it weren’t for all of my failures. So keep failing, keep learning and keep growing. iI only makes you more great. 

I wish to leave you with one last thought. We have to be willing to live the lives we wish to live. We have to be willing to fail, to succeed, to learn, and to grow. We have to be willing to make tough decisions and to step out of our comfort zones.  

Ask yourself – could I live my entire life never knowing what could have been?  

Take action and live!