What Scares Business Owners?
"The only thing to fear is fear itself." When President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered this memorable line during the depths of the Great Depression, it gave people comfort.
But as any entrepreneur will tell you, business owners often live in fear -- fear of not making payroll, the possibility that their accountant might run off with their money, and the old standbys, bankruptcy and ruin. There's plenty out there to be terrified of.
Fortunately, entrepreneurs are a hearty bunch. "Courage isn't the absence of fear -- it's moving through fear," says Marti MacGibbon, a motivational speaker and the author of Never Give in to Fear. "You have to acknowledge it, face it and move through it."
In other words, like inventory, employees and cash flow, fear, as you'll learn below, can be managed.
The monster under the bed: Fear of failure
The entrepreneur: Alexis Wolfer, 26, New York City, editor of The Beauty Bean, an online magazine designed to provide women with their health and beauty fix without weight loss articles
Why the jitters: With her father and three brothers doing well in the family business, there's definitely a sense of competition. "I had this nightmare where I was evicted from my apartment, the website was failing, and I kept thinking 'What am I going to do?'" says Wolfer.
Fear buster: She exercises, has a strong support group and advocates getting plenty of sleep. Says Wolfer, "Your fears seem bigger when you're overtired."
The monster under the bed: Losing the big client, and then your business
The entrepreneur: Jeff Cohn, 51, president and CEO of Cohn Marketing, a Denver firm with 23 employees, currently bringing in $3.2 million in annual revenue
Why the jitters: "Losing clients is always a fear, but during a tough economy, losing a big client can make or break a midsize agency," says Cohn, who has seen established marketing and PR agencies shut their doors due to losing that "big" client.
While the company has a healthy number of clients, his big four comprise about 70 percent of the firm's income. Is it likely that all four might disappear at once and bring down the company? Of course not. But it could happen, especially if there is another downturn.
Fear buster: Cohn focuses on the positive things going on. He strategizes and brainstorms whenever fear rears its ugly head, and he tries to stay clear-headed by taking walks and going on the occasional getaway. When he does, "I always come back with new ideas, fresh perspectives and new motivation to take things to the next level."
The monster under the bed: Having another company copy your idea and capture the marketplace before you can
The entrepreneur: Katie Danziger, 47, founder of Nomie Baby, a New York City-based firm that offers infant-related products for parents
Why the jitters: Her business is just two years old and starting to do well. Her products are on the Bed, Bath & Beyond website, Amazon.com and Diapers.com, and her wares are sold across nine states. But Danziger isn't a giant in the infant industry yet. "One of my biggest fears is that a bigger company will come along, take my ideas and run with them."
Fear buster: Making sure she got a patent helped, as did walking through the worst that could really happen. "My attorney told me that maybe I shouldn't be so afraid of a big company doing the same thing," says Danziger. "It might give a lot more exposure to the brand."
The (existential) monster under the bed: Your business becomes your identity. If the business fails, what happens to you?
The entrepreneur: Tracy Saunders, 36, CEO of New York City-based Go Pretty LLC, a free online community that connects regular folks with beauty experts
Why the jitters: Last year, Saunders spent her life savings (a significant sum) to launch a beauty services business in Manhattan's luxury market. It didn't work out. Now she's relaunching and retooling her business model. But now the business has to take off because she no longer has life savings to fall back on.
"I just really want it to work," says Saunders. "And it's not even about recouping that first investment. I just want to succeed at something I've worked so hard for."
Fear buster: Saunders is a good example of how fear can be useful. She was fearless during her first launch and made some questionable financial decisions -- like having an expensive office in Times Square. Now, as she puts it, she's taking baby steps.
The monster under the bed: You've started a business, invested a lot of money and time, and quite possibly nothing will come from it.
The entrepreneur: Jerry Gardner, 49, founder and CEO of Companion Tree, a new social media site for people seeking platonic friendships
Why he is on edge: He invested $50,000 in a startup that could be huge -- or a huge flop. "For the last year, I've been caught up in the excitement of research and development and marketing," says Gardner, "and I had no time for fear and doubt. [But] recently, I had a gut-wrenching thought. 'I just spent half my severance package on this idea? What the hell am I thinking?' At that moment, I almost vomited."
Fear buster: "I ask myself what I can do right now to address the issue," says Gardner. "What action can I take?" And he's careful to distinguish when something is out of his control. "Like driving on an icy road," says Gardner. "I can't control the environment or the other drivers, but I can take control of my own vehicle and drive safely and defensively."
So what scares you as a business owner? How do you work though it? Pull up a seat in the comments section and tell us all about it.