Businesses should never confuse these two concepts

Robin Nicholson
Director: Corporate-911

South Africa has been trying to overcome significant challenges long before the current state of disruption. Employment is declining and Government is at pains to try and reinvigorate the economy enough to create the necessary jobs that will ameliorate the situation.

Unemployment is a terrifying  reality for many South Africans. Those prudent enough to hedge their bets and seek employment while they still have jobs face the arduous (and not uncommon task) of applying for hundreds of jobs to receive maybe a handful of interviews, few of which progress to a second interview.

These jobseekers still have financial commitments to meet and families to provide for. The result of this is that jobseekers become (or try to become) entrepreneurs. The harsh reality of this is that not every person is cut out to run their own company.

This week’s spotlight focuses on fear, how to overcome it (and in fact harness it), and how to tell the difference between fear and anxiety which are two very different sides to the same coin.

Do not let fear become paralysing
Fear is probably one of the biggest challenges that a business owner faces. This is a natural feeling because you are venturing into the unknown, no matter how much market research you have done.  You have two inherent responses to fear: fight or flight.

The key is to not let fear become paralysing. While dealing with your fear, you need to have energy because energy is converted into momentum, which drives us forward. Harness the energy of your flight response I recently read an article on which eloquently summed up the fears that entrepreneurs face.

The life of an entrepreneur is filled with fear. The fear of failure, the fear of losing it all, the fear of judgement, the fear of rejection, the list goes on.

We can never eliminate these fears. However, we need to assess what triggers them and work on solutions to overcome these triggers.

Two of the major triggers when it comes to fear are: the challenge does not seem to have a solution; and the challenge seems so immense that I do not know how to start addressing it.

Addressing these two triggers is simple. With regards to the first trigger, the internet is so vast that there is literature that will help empower you, or direct you, to find a solution to a challenge. In my experience, there are very few challenges that do not have any solution at all.

With regards to the second trigger, you need to break the enormity of the challenge into its singular components and address them one at a time. The second part of this is that you need to realise that you are not alone, there are always people around you who are invested in your success and will help if you ask for it.

The thing about entrepreneurs that are at the top of their game is that they are better at dealing with fear.

Context is everything
When faced with fear, you need to contextualise it. When you are working in your office, how scared are you of being attacked by a dog? You probably are not because you know that you can control your environment enough so that the fear is not manifested.

Prospecting for new business is a fear that trips up most new entrepreneurs. Yet, it is a vital component of your business’ engine room. Prepare for this by doing your research and understanding your prospect well, have confidence in your product/service, arrive to the meeting early so that you are not rushed and be warm and welcoming.

Contextualise your fear. Control it, do not let it control you.

Self-belief can get you far
You need to truly believe that the product/service that you are offering is the best product/service available and that it will solve a solution that your client has been looking for.

The beliefs that we have direct our behaviour and decision making. It also goes a long way to defining our internal dialogue. Let us go back to the dog attack example.  Let us assume you are now in an open field and there are dogs around you. Next to you is a person who understands dog behaviour and knows the statistics and chances of an attack occurring.

Same context, different beliefs, resulting in different levels of fear. This means that another way of dealing with fear is to examine the belief you have that creates the fear.

However, it must be pointed out that self-belief is not a panacea. You need to invest time and energy into educating yourself on business ownership. There are plenty of courses on Udemy and LinkedIn learning that can assist with this.

Do not confuse fear with anxiety
A very important distinction that a business owner needs to make is that they need to separate fear and anxiety.

Ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes) and Arachnophobia (the fear of spiders) are genuine fears based on an outcome that the snake or the spider may do you harm. You have very little control over whether the snake or the spider is going to bite you.

Anxiety is the fear of a perceived outcome. A lot of the times, a business owner will out off prospecting for new business because they fear the outcome of a phone call or of the response to an email. The emphatic no or not interested is a fear that most call centre agents must deal with daily is a fear that they need to overcome to do their job.

If you can control/influence the outcome of an interaction with someone, fear becomes anxiety and there are tools to manage anxiety. Being prepared and working hard to refine your product/service so that it is something that will meet your clients demands can manage anxiety.

Position of privilege
A lot of the time, fear and anxiety is borne from a simple thing that needs to change in your business. However, many business owners cannot take an objective view of their business and see what is triggering their fear/anxiety and how to address it.

This is where BRPs are in a position of privilege whereby we can take an objective view of a company and ascertain what is triggering their fear/anxiety and the remediation steps that need to be taken.

Phone a friend, BRPs are here to help your business.

Robin Nicholson is the Director of Corporate-911