Business owners face an enormous amount of stress and anxiety every day. When we finally lie down at night, our thoughts are on our business. I know this because that’s what I’m thinking about and I’m no exception to the rule. But what role do fear and anxiety have in the business owner’s life? How can we mitigate their negative influence? Can they be harnassed and used as a motivator? These are some of the questions I want to answer today. So, join me as I take a look at the relationship between fear, anxiety, and business ownership.
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Harvard Business Review conducted a study about the top five things that keep business owners up at night. The interesting thing about this study was that they found that fear and anxiety can inhibit and motivate. The fear of failure stops some from ever venturing out on their own. However, that same fear can be a motivational force for others. But we’ll come back to that later. For now, let’s take a look at the top five causes of fear and anxiety for business owners.
I’ve often pointed to the fact that 80% of small business owners have around 80% of their net worth tied up in their business. That means that most of us have all of our eggs in one basket. One of the things that companies like Heritage Business Advisors and Heritage Investors really work with business owners to do, is to get them to diversify outside of their businesses. Think about what it would do to your financial life if you suddenly lost your business. By diversifying away from your business, you can provide yourself with a kind of safety net, should the unthinkable ever happen.
Oftentimes, we put so much of ourselves into our businesses that it becomes our identity. In fact, I discuss this in my book, The Ultimate Sale. In it, I reveal that the number one regret that business owners have after selling their business is their loss of identity. The success and failure of our business is something that we take deeply personal and it can have drastic effects on our sense of self-esteem.
This is not the same thing as self-esteem. Social-esteem deals with how we are viewed by our peers. At our core, everyone wants to do a good job. Whether you operate a Fortune 500 company or fry french fries at a fast-food restaurant, you want to do good work and earn the respect of your peers. When you are cast as a failure by your colleagues, it can actually lead to greater failure. There’s a tendency to overcompensate in an attempt to change peer perceptions which can magnify any problems that may exist, leading to greater failures and a loss of confidence.
In many cases, opportunity cost can have a positive impact on business owners. We look at the opportunities that we’ve missed as a result of pursuing our business and it drives us to push even harder to make sure that it was worth the missed opportunities. On the other hand, if you’re more worried about the potential of your idea or venture, it can become prohibitive, causing paralysis through analysis. You spend so much time thinking about every possible outcome of every decision that you never actually make a decision which ultimately has a negative impact on your business.
I don’t know about you but I have a million ideas for how to better serve our clients. The “D” personality in me wants to just make it happen as soon as the thought enters my brain. But the reality is that even though I may be like a speed boat, my business is closer to an aircraft carrier. I can come up with an idea and move on it very quickly, in my mind, but my business can’t maneuver at the same speed. If we tried, all of the planes would fall off of the ship. So, the ability to execute our ideas is often what keeps business owners up at night.
Friends, the truth is that fear and entrepreneurship often go hand in hand. Just as HBR found the five most common fears and anxieties that keep business owners up at night, Forbes found eight. And truth be told, there’s probably a list of fears that’s a mile long for most business owners.
What the study by Forbes found was these eight items caused the most fear in business owners:
Wondering if you’ve made the right choice when pursuing your business opportunities can be a major source of stress for many business owners. Once you’ve made your decision, focus on making that opportunity as great as it can possibly be. Forget about the rest.
I’ve wanted to be a New York Times Bestselling Author since I was in college. It is still a goal of mine. But when I’m gone, will my kids care if I accomplished that goal? What people remember about us is the type of person that we were, not whether we were successful business owners.
Too often, business owners fall into the “Field of Dreams” trap. You know what I’m talking about… if you build it, they will come. However, locking yourself into a major debt on the hopes that customers will follow is a big mistake and has caused many to file bankruptcy. Plan for major expenses, don’t gamble on them.
This is a very scary prospect for many business owners. But, with the right insurance, it doesn’t have to be. I remember the first time I was involved in legal action as a business owner. If not for a wise attorney trying to calm me down, I think I would have lost my mind.
Sometimes, we see so many opportunities to improve or grow our businesses that we just don’t know where to begin. When this happens, the fear of missing out can keep business owners up at night. The best way to combat this is by choosing the two or three best ways that you can improve your business right now and to just go with them. Attempting to do everything usually results in doing nothing.
When we compare ourselves to other business owners, it’s easy to feel like we aren’t good enough. Eventually, those feelings of self-doubt can turn into fears of being found out as a fraud, a phony, or an imposter. However, I’ve learned throughout my career that most business owners don’t truly understand business. In some regards, we are all imposters. Rather than privately holding that fear, speak with some of your peers about it. You may be surprised to learn they have felt the same way.
One thing the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that some business owners were much better prepared for the shutdown than others. Being unprepared for disasters business and financial disasters is scary to a lot of us. The best advice I can offer for this is to plan for the best but prepare for the worst. Though we don’t know when something bad is going to happen, we can prepare for it to mitigate its damage to our businesses.
Folks, this one keeps me up at night. As business owners, we support many people. We buy groceries, pay mortgages and rent, car payments, health insurance, etc. The people who have bought into our business philosophies depend on us. Because of this, I saw many business owners shedding tears over the way the pandemic impacted their employees. I know that you care deeply for your teams, just as I do. So, I know that I’m not alone when I say that this one scares me more than anything.
There are many fears that didn’t make the lists above, but that doesn’t make them less important. We struggle with everything from fear of loneliness to worrying about making payroll and how we will stay motivated to keep up with the grind day in and day out. But what can we do about it? Well, first we need to identify exactly what our fears are. Once they’ve been identified, we need to determine whether or not they can be used as a motivational source. If they can, that’s great! On the other hand, we want to work to mitigate the fears that hold us back.
As we continue through this series, I’m going to address many of the fears that keep us up at night, and together, we’re going to unpack ways of putting our fears into perspective. You’re not going to want to miss this series, folks! Until next time, life is good. We have fears and worries but life is still good. Just remember, for every fear, there is an equal and greater solution. Let’s go out and make it a great day!
Want to learn more about how to take control of your fears and use them to your advantage? Contact us, today! The Financially Simple team is here to help.