Can you imagine an entrepreneur who is actually afraid of success? None will ever admit it openly, but I’m a strong believer that actions or lack of action speaks louder than words. In my years of advising startups, I’ve seen too many cases of seemingly irrational actions, or just freezing with that “deer in the headlights” look when it’s time to make a critical move.
I see it in the technologists who never get around to shipping their product, nominally because it isn’t finished yet. I see it in the business person who has plenty of funding, but won’t spend a dime on marketing to get the word out, just to conserve resources. After years of hard work, they always have rational excuses but really no one to blame but their own internal fears of success.
So, if your startup seems stuck in a rut these days, maybe it’s time to take a hard look at these common internal challenges, to see if you are actually the real limit to your success in business than the faltering economy or tough competitors:
- You need to be in control of every detail. Control freaks find it hard to survive as entrepreneurs, primarily because none of us have the time or skills to do everything that needs to be done in a business. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from advisors and to hire help (do what needs to be done) rather than just helpers (do what you tell them).
- You just want to be treated as another member of the team. Every successful business needs someone in charge -- the buck stops here, and hard decisions have to be made. Some entrepreneurs fear being seen as the boss, so they try to make every move a team decision often resulting in no decision or analysis paralysis. It’s time to be the leader.
- You don’t want to give up your current lifestyle. Some entrepreneurs unconsciously fear that the focus and dedication required for success will change their lifestyle to one they don’t enjoy or their friends won’t appreciate. In fact, one of the many challenges of a new business is to balance personal and family life and continue outside activities. Face it.
- You're afraid to ask for and spend other people’s money. It takes money to make money. Real startup growth usually requires an initial infusion of cash to kick-start marketing, hire staff and build inventory. Soliciting and managing outside funds is a fear that every entrepreneur has to overcome for success. The challenge is not to let it get too easy.
- You're unable to take enough risk due to fear of failure. There are no certainties in business, so taking a risk is required, and one or more failures is about average. Neither is life-threatening, and true friends and family will not desert you after a few setbacks. Successful entrepreneurs never give up and wear their failures as a badge of courage.
- You can’t possibly be smart enough to succeed in business. Maybe your parents were not supportive, or you struggled in school, so your self-confidence has never risen above a certain point. These fears can be overcome, by setting small milestones early and often and working upward. Business success requires street smarts, not book smarts.
- You hate stepping out of your comfort zone. Even experienced entrepreneurs often keep coming back to the same formulas and tools, which worked at some level and at some point in time. The challenge is that the business world keeps changing, and future success requires new creativity and innovation. Force yourself to step outside the box.
Successful entrepreneurs almost always start with a vision and a higher level purpose than just making money. It helps to communicate this higher purpose, to motivate you and overcome the fear of the unknown. Success does not require that you be fearless, but only that you be determined to transform fears into positive learning actions rather than negative roadblocks.
The ultimate fear to overcome is the fear of success per se. This is the most debilitating, since it usually comes from a deep-seated desire to conform and blend in. It can cause you to lose faith in your abilities and give up your vision at the slightest setback. Keep your vision and purpose at the forefront to motivate you and allow you to step beyond all your fears to the entrepreneurial success you deserve.