Quite a few years ago, probably more than a decade ago now, I was speaking at an event alongside a brilliant, local motivational speaker called Rachel Haslam who asked a question that completely changed my approach to my business. She said, ‘What would you do differently in your business, if I could guarantee you now that you would not fail?”

That was simple I thought. I would invest in more product development, pay for more marketing and put myself ‘out there’ to try to get PR for my business. I wasn’t doing those things and as a result, my business wasn’t really going anywhere quickly. It was immediately apparent to me – my own fear of failure was preventing me from being a success.

The fear that I would lose money, or face the embarrassment of promoting my business to my friends only to have to tell everyone a few months later that I had given it up and got a ‘normal’ job because I had failed, was holding me back from putting much effort into my business. Once I had acknowledged this, I was able to rationalise it : What might cause me to fail? 

  • Would I fail because there was no demand for the product I was offering (No, because market and competitor data as well as my own extensive surveys of a 250+ sample, clearly intimated that there was a viable demand for clothing and lingerie for women with a D+ bust)
  • Would I fail because my product was crap and nobody would like it? (Possibly, and subconsciously, this would reflect onto me, because they were MY designs; if they were rejected, it would be a rejection of me and my personal tastes. My ego was the one fearing rejection. But I could mitigate that risk by obtaining feedback, looking at the mainstream market and forecasting national trends)
  • Would I fail because I did not have the necessary knowledge, expertise and experience to compete with more established businesses in this sector? (No! With the internet at my fingertips and a wealth of local Government-funded business expertise to call upon for advice, I had enough information to get my business off the ground)

Once you stare at your fears head on, and be honest with yourself about why you are being held back, you start to gain the visibility and self-awareness you need to make progress.

Let’s be honest – while you’re in the comfortable ‘planning’ stage, you can continue believing that your business will be a huge success, because it hasn’t been disprove by anyone. We want to stay in Fantasyland as long as possible without having to face the reality of the prospect – it may be a total dud!

Once you have identified what is holding you back, start to put measures in place to improve your chances of survival, and success. Get the help of an expert. Find your local business support hub (if you live in Lancashire, yours is here)

After I had identified that my fear of failure was holding me back, I stopped approaching my business halfheartedly (with one eye on the job boards) and stopped making excuses like “I need investment to be able to move on with my business” – this is a common excuse. There was nothing preventing me from obtaining a business loan, personal loan, or boot strapping it with a little bit of my own money first. I didn’t need to start off with 50 products. So I started with one product, in three colours. I put myself out there – I turned up to the opening of an envelope for the first two years if it was cheap to attend – if I got a free glass of wine, even better! I asked for help and advice from anyone willing to offer it – and now ten years on, I offer the same advice back to start-up businesses.

Please do not hesitate to give me a tickle on my mobile for a no obligation chat. You can find my contact details here