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Starting a small business. Calculating risk, overcoming fear, and taking the plunge Thumbnail

Starting a small business. Calculating risk, overcoming fear, and taking the plunge

Starting a business is not for the faint at heart.  Some say, an entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.  While that seems a bit dramatic, the image of this makes me chuckle and nod with some understanding.

When it comes right down to it, if you want to start a business you will eventually need to jump.  And yes, perhaps build or repair your plane on the way down, but you should have a solid plan before you take the plunge. 

While business owners are usually natural risk takers; it’s important to make sure you are making carefully calculated risks; not blind risks.

People who entertain becoming small business owners are often hard workers who like the idea of channeling their work ethic and effort into building and growing a thriving business of their own.  While many people toy with the idea of starting a business, there are very few who will proceed with their plans.  The decision to go for it usually lies in an individual’s courage, ability to take a risk, and fear. 

Small businesses are in many ways the backbone of our economy and collectively we need brilliant minds and brave souls to continue to have an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to build and grow businesses.

Abraham Maslow, famed psychologist known for his theory of human motivation said “At any given moment we have two options:  to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.”  People naturally struggle with taking steps beyond their comfort zone.

While it may seem easy to rise above fear and muster your courage, it’s not that simple.  The fear an entrepreneur faces when starting a business is real.  Owning your own business can be an amazing experience but to increase your chance of success, entrepreneurs need to go in with eyes wide open.

Think of an established small business in your community as represented by an iceburg.  The portion of the iceburg above the water represents their small business success, or more simply put, What People See.  About 10% of an iceburg is visible above the surface.  The other 90% lies beneath the water.  This part represents what really happens behind the scenes or simply put, What People Don’t See; the hard work, risk, late nights, struggles, failures, persistence, discipline, courage, doubts, criticism, disappointments, adversity and sacrifices.

Illustration credit:  Sylvia Duckworth, www.sylviaduckworth.com

If you are thinking about starting a small business, make sure you look at the whole iceburg, not just the pretty part above the surface.  Make sure you have the courage and are willing to take the risk and recognize what you are getting into.  The businesses who succeed are the ones who do their planning, preparation and know what they are getting into.

Having a solid plan should reduce your fear but probably won’t eliminate it.  In fact you may never feel ready.  You may need to proceed while afraid.  You will need courage to start your business and for the many decisions you will need to make along the way. 

In our business over the years we’ve had milestones that really shook my courage, and nearly brought me to my knees.  There is a saying that helps me gain perspective whenever I feel fear creeping in; It’s okay to be scared.  Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.  It helps me regain perspective and maybe it will help another business owner too.

There are many entrepreneurs and small business owners whose courage is tested every day.  They are among us as neighbours and friends, and can be great mentors for someone considering starting a business of their own.  Most people will never see or realize the complexity of what lies below the iceburg of their success; but it’s there.  I applaud them.  Each and every one of them.

Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision

– Peter Drucker

At some point, you can’t be afraid of what could go wrong; you need to be focused on what could go right.   And perhaps, just perhaps, you will soar higher than you ever imagined.