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Feeling the Fear in Business...and Doing it Anyway

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Fear. For a four-lettered word, it sure carries a lot of weight and for the would-be entrepreneurs in my newbie group, no matter what their business aspirations were, it was an emotion they were all feeling.

For some, they were over-thinking what they had to do to make sure their business was successful. For others, they were somewhat paralyzed in moving forward for fear (that word again) that they would make a wrong step or even worse, fail.

As we brainstormed what fear meant for each of us, it was clear it covers a wide range of emotions, from not wanting to look foolish to not wanting to fail. Taking risks however is an integral part of running your own business. The key is to make them calculated risks in that you've done your homework, studied the marketplace and have some strategies in place to successfully launch and build your business.

It is when someone shows no fear and is somewhat cocky that I question what the outcome will be. When you do your due diligence and then act on it, you are much more likely to have a positive result.

But even then, no one has a crystal ball to see into the future on what will work, take off and be successful or what will stumble and fail. Much depends on your attitude, your passion for what you want to do, and your tenacity to stay the course. You also need to be flexible so that you can respond quickly should an opportunity arise.

So how do you overcome that fear of failure. In many ways, you don't. It is something you learn to live with and manage, and you learn not to let it hold you back from forging ahead with your plans. Here are some other pointers:

1. Know yourself. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. I had the women ask friends and family about their strengths, and one woman made a collage of all the positive words she received and plans to frame and place it on her desk as a constant reminder of her skills. Great idea.

2. Tackle the gremlins. Many of us grew up with feelings of inadequacy, that we don't quite measure up, and there's this little voice inside ridiculing our dreams and aspirations. Let it go. Yes, you will have moments of self-doubt, we all do, but believe in yourself. It is very hard to ask others to believe in you, if you don't yourself. Build up your confidence.

3. Surround yourself with positive people who believe you can do this. It may mean that your friendships change because your old friends may feel threatened by what you are doing or don't understand the time commitment involved in getting your business off the ground. Become part of a group where others will keep you honest with yourself and remind you of how well you are doing.

4. Do your homework. Have a plan. Know who your target audience is, how to reach them and be strategic in your marketing. Set goals in writing.

5. Do the math. How much do you need to make initially? Make sure you have at least six months' living expenses tucked away. Often in our enthusiasm to start we underestimate costs, and overestimate revenues because finding customers may take longer than you think.

6. Have realistic expectations. Everything you do for the first time takes longer than planned. Don't get discouraged if revenue is slower to come in than you predicted.

7. Network. Network. Network. Even when this isn't your comfort zone, you need to get out there and talk about what you are doing. Let people know that your product or service is available. And be prepared for this to take time too as people do business with people they know and trust and that doesn't happen overnight.

8. Have contingency plans. Ask yourself some tough questions -- where could things go wrong? What can you put in place to make sure you overcome or minimize these obstacles?

9. Be nimble. At the outset you may have determined what you want to do and with whom, but be prepared to switch if it becomes clear that you could have a niche market elsewhere. Go with the flow.

These are more practical tips, but tackling your confidence and belief in yourself is really the biggie. Those feelings of inadequacy can be so deep-rooted but as Louise L. Hay says "You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself, and see what happens."

Starting a business is an exciting, scary time. It is not for everyone but when it works, there is no better sense of accomplishment than when you see the results of all your hard labour.

As the late Susan Jeffers said, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."