by James Craft, TEDCO Enterprise and Development Manager
Am I the kind of person who can start and run a business? Do I have the skills, the drive, the dedication requires to make it succeed? What if it all goes wrong?
These are the kinds of questions that keep budding entrepreneurs up at night. And it’s also the train of thought that prevents very capable people from taking the leap and creating their own brand.
Last month, I talked about the various qualities it takes to be a leader, asking whether leaders are ultimately born or made. Today, in the second instalment of my series outlining the skills needed to run an SME, I want to focus on one of these qualities: courage.
For many, starting a business is a courageous act, and growing a business is a scary one
It takes a lot of guts to take a business idea and turn it into a bona fide brand, but for some people, getting started is the easy part. Once you’re faced with an actual business that’s now your responsibility, that’s when the fear sets in. It’s only natural for doubts to invade our thought processes when taking steps towards business growth.
Some believe that these fears are instilled in childhood. From an early age, we’re protected from things we’re afraid of, causing us to worry that something bad may happen. In 2019, Huber described the self-limiting beliefs that she felt when launching her own business as having emerged during childhood.
It is ingrained in our mindset to back away from things that pose a threat, but this isn’t necessarily the best way to run a business. In a 2021 article, business author Michael Eppehimer actively encourages fearless leadership, believing we should say yes more often and actively embrace the unknown.
According to Eppehimer, “a leader who is constantly improvising is demonstrating activated courageous mindfulness. This approach to leadership can effectively embrace and manage fear to create a sense of calm and strength.”
There’s vulnerability in running a business, and that can be frightening
While Eppehimer may encourage improvision in business management, others prefer to take their time. Some entrepreneurs harbour business ideas for years before building up enough courage to launch a business. Continually re-thinking, exploring, evolving ideas in their head before finally having enough self-belief to take the first step. The entrepreneur will ponder their ideas with family, friends and peers. The time it takes to launch will be different for everyone.
Factors like financial and family commitments, and finding the right time both for yourself and the market are all important. But it all comes down to potential entrepreneurs allowing themselves to be vulnerable. And this can be scary.
Sharing ideas is a huge barrier for some due to the possibility of doubters and critics. But like any skill, courage can be learned through practice, and this creates a self-assuredness which helps to create a good leader.
This is a view shared by Brain Tracy in Leadership (2014), who states: “Courage is one of the most important qualities of leadership […] it is what causes people to rally around the banner of a leader.”
Ultimately, fear is a necessary part of being an entrepreneur, but you have to be brave enough to push past it
To round off this piece, it’s somewhat poetic to return to the subject of childhood with this telling quote from author Neil Gaiman in his young adult novella Coraline:
“Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”
Every entrepreneur has fears, whether they’re one week, one year or one decade into their business’ lifespan. But all entrepreneurs have courage too, otherwise they wouldn’t be where they are, and it’s this courage which can help business owners ultimately overcome their fears.
This, undoubtedly, is one of the most distinguishing leader qualities: the ability to push past fear and drive forwards.
James Craft is the Enterprise and Development Manager for TEDCO Business Support.
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