Fear stands in the way of growth for many business owners. Here, finance mentor Nancy Youssef looks at how to move past this roadblock to help your business reach its true potential.
If there’s one thing that all business owners can relate to, it’s the nagging feeling that starting and running a business 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 that I was operating from a place that was completely, unequivocally, 100% 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.
If I cast my mind back to the year 2003, when I had recently decided to set up my first business, 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 completely 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 be 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 just survive, but truly thrives?
1. 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 turned out, she was right, and she has become a key part of my team.
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. Even if you don’t have the capacity, or workload, for a full-time staff member to manage your accounts, administration, marketing or other aspects of your business that really don’t play to your strengths, technology and the ‘gig economy’ mean that it has never been easier to outsource just a few hours a month or week to specialists in their fields. Yes, it will cost money, but it will free you up to add even more value to your business.
2. 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 learnt how important it is to run my business based on data, rather than feelings. I hired a consultant Chief Financial Officer to help me with forecasting, budgeting, auditing and accountability, and this important action turned out to be the catalyst for transitioning from what was (for nearly a decade) a lifestyle enterprise, into a legitimate business.
3. 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!
4. 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 go 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 are, it allows you to really focus on what needs to be done – without getting distracted or overwhelmed along the way.
Nancy is an award-winning finance broker, mentor, philanthropist, and founder of Classic Finance and Classic Mentoring. Nancy is the author of Fear. Money. Purpose, which is designed to inspire others – women especially – to step out of their comfort zone and be inspired to achieve more.