If there’s one thing that all business owners can relate to, it’s the nagging feeling that starting and running a business comes breeds responsibility. Whether you employ staff or you’re a sole operator, the bottom line is that when it comes to your business, the buck stops with you – which can create the perfect breeding ground for unnecessary fears.
It wasn’t very long ago when I was operating from a place that was completely, unequivocally, 100 per cent governed by fear. Every decision I made, every option I looked at, every goal I set, every thought I had… it was all driven by fear.
When I cast my mind back to the year 2003, when I had recently decided to set up my first business, Classic Finance, a mortgage broking firm based in Sydney, I can see how much all of my decisions at the time were rooted in fear. On the surface, that didn’t seem to be the case; I chose to launch my own business and leave the safety and security of my corporate role for a number of bold reasons, including becoming my own boss, having the flexibility to travel, and challenging myself in a brand new way.
The one thing most people don’t think about before they embark on this type of adventure, however, is how well prepared they are to being a self-employed business owner. I was quite out of my depth in those early days, for one reason and one reason only: I let my fears stand in my way.
This is a common problem for small business owners, especially those who are just starting out. So what did I do in order to move past my fears and create a sustainable business that doesn’t only survive, but that truly thrives?
- Outsource and hire help… even when the thought terrifies you
It took me far, far too long to realise that I couldn’t do it all on my own. I was so fearful about hiring any staff, because I labored on in the belief that “if I want it done right, I have to do it myself”. Eventually, my paths crossed with Belinda; she was looking for a flexible career, she was good at budgeting and financial management, and she had helped several friends to get their finances in order, so she thought the mortgage world could be a natural fit. As it turns out, she was right! She has become a key part of my team and since hiring Belinda, I’ve realised the value and importance of building a support team so that you can do more of the work that truly makes you tick.
- Turn to facts, figures and data for the real story
I can still remember the sleepless nights as my business grew – nights where I would toss and turn, worrying about the costs of moving into a bigger office, of paying for a new fit-out, of covering wages each and every month, of anxiously pondering what would happen if we entered a downturn again… When stress and uncertainty kicks in, it can be hard to reign in your fears. To kick these anxieties to the curb, I’ve learned how important it is run my business based on data, rather than feelings. I have hired a consultant CFO to help me with forecasting, budgeting, auditing and accountability, and that has really been the transition from what was (for nearly a decade) a lifestyle business into an actual, legitimate business.
- Don’t let your fears step into the ‘drivers’ seat
I have faced plenty of fears when building my business, including the fear of loss of credibility; loss of reputation; letting someone down; or not fulfilling my promise. What I’ve discovered, however, is that with enough grit, drive and determination, these fears are almost always unfounded. I’ve had enough experience to remind me that where there’s a will there’s a way, even though the way can at times be very painful!
- Adopt a growth mindset
Fear of collaboration or of giving away too many ‘trade secrets’ to competitors is a big fear for entrepreneurs. Another hidden fear that is often lurking beneath the surface is the fear of growth. Why would anyone have a fear of becoming successful – it doesn’t make sense, does it? Perhaps it doesn’t at face value, but when your business grows, everything becomes bigger; decisions become more meaningful, and there are more vested interests in that decision-making process. To combat this fear, I suggest you back to the basics. What are you trying to achieve? For who? And why? When you’re clear on your purpose and what your core aspirations other, it allows you to really focus on what needs to be done – without getting distracted or overwhelmed along the way.
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