Jun 3, 2022 | Starting a Business

What If I fail? I’m afraid to take the risk of starting a business.

Q. Dear Zenagos, I’ve been thinking about starting my own business, but I’m afraid to take the risk. What if I fail?
–Josh

Fear of failure is normal, and it is a good sign that you have the self-awareness to recognize and face it. Many people don’t even feel the fear, but instead avoid it by procrastinating (say, by watching an endless series of funny pet videos). It is easier to bask in the known than to chance the unknown. However, inaction has its own risks. As the old joke goes: Describe failure in two words. (I can’t.)

If you never take a chance, you will miss the opportunity to experience total public humiliation. (Hey, at least you can only go up from there!) But seriously, heed the words of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, who famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Or, adopt the advice of leadership guru John C. Maxwell (2000): “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.” It’s not that you need to celebrate failure. Instead, see failure as one of many steps toward success – a bump that can be learned from and overcome.

There are numerous stories of hugely successful entrepreneurs who failed multiple times before they achieved their fame. Domino’s pizza founder Tom Monaghan had a couple of bankruptcies before eventually selling his pizza chain to Bain Capital for more than $1B (Kelly, 2021). Milton Hershey, the founder of the candy company that is now a household name, operated two candy shops that failed before he founded the company that we know today (Ledger, 2021). Surely, neither entrepreneur would recommend failure as a strategy, but they would almost certainly endorse it as a teacher.

The best way to manage your fear of failure is to learn more about business and build a launch plan. Have you envisioned how your business will work two to three years from now? Do you understand how you will find customers? Have you made a financial plan? Find some experts you can trust to walk you through the planning process, so you can dodge the most common mistakes. Planning is an inexpensive dress rehearsal – a chance to imagine yourself on the entrepreneurial stage before taking any big risks. Don’t forget to include trusted friends and family members in the conversation; they know you best.

In the end, only you know the level of risk that you can bear. To gauge your tolerance, use the sleep test. Make a launch plan and choose a launch date (the day when you will spend meaningful cash on the business for the first time). Really convince yourself that you are going to do it. Then, see if you can sleep at night.

 

References

Kelly, D. (2021, July 3). The untold truth of Domino’s. Mashed. Retrieved on June 17, 2002 from https://www.mashed.com/94876/untold-truth-dominos/

Ledger, K. (2021, December 30). Quality Logo Products. Retrieved on June 17, 2002 from https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog/8-successful-entrepreneurs-who-experienced-failure/

Maxwell, J. C. (2000). Failing forward: turning mistakes into stepping stones for success. Nashville: Nelson.

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