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Carl Reader looks at how fear may hold people back from starting a business.

I didn’t realise just how much of a problem this was until recently, when I ran a Twitter poll. We had about 350 respondents, and what came out surprisingly high was that people have a fear of starting their own business. Now, that’s not something I’ve actually encountered myself personally, however, I’ve seen it across many business owners. I was expecting the results to show it was a lack of knowledge, or a lack of time or indeed – the winner – a lack of money. But it was fear that really pushed through, with about 29% of people saying it was a lack of confidence that was holding them back from either starting or growing a business.

There’s a few ways to overcome fear. Now, I’m not going to go down the route of motivational speakers. You’ll hear them say that fear is just a mnemonic for “False Emotions Appearing Real”; that is certainly one way of looking at it – that fear is actually completely false. But no – fear is an instinctive and powerful human emotion that alerts us to danger. If you’re scared of jumping off a cliff or running into a fire – that’s healthy because they’re logical things to be scared of. Actually what you need to do is understand is the difference between rational fear and irrational fear.

Now, starting a business for some people will actually be a rational fear. If you’re not cut out for running a business, you’re actually right to be scared of running it and have that fear. But if you are, there are some ways to help reduce that fear and set yourself up with the best chances of success. But what are those ways?

The first one is to plan. You need to make sure that your business has a focused, defined plan. You need to know what exactly you’re going to do. You’ve got to make sure that any predictions you make are sanity checked, that you’ve had an accountant run through the numbers, and an expert in the industry should examine the presumptions you make. If you have a robust, informed business plan and projections, you’ve got reassurance that your business should actually work.

The second way to reduce your fear is to actually get some education about business itself. You might be an expert in whatever it is that you do. If you’re an architect, for example, you might be an expert at drawing architectural pictures, but you’re not necessarily an expert in running a business. Make sure you seek out – and take on board - expert advice, and get your knowledge up to scratch to reinforce your understanding of things like sales, marketing and administration. It’s not the stuff we go into business to do, however, it’s the stuff you need to do to make a business a success.

So when you’ve got your knowledge correct and prepped and your plan in place, actually you’re in a very strong position to start moving forwards and overcoming the more serious roadblocks that actually scare people - and the big one of those, of course, with a whopping 44% on my Twitter poll, is money.

Now with a good plan, the knowledge of how business works, and the financials of your business, you should be able to raise financing – and don’t be afraid of doing this. One of things you have to ask yourself is “What’s the worst that can happen?” Now, again, I’m going to debunk many motivational speakers out there and say that actually, forget this “no plan B” rubbish that people go on about. You absolutely SHOULD have a plan B. You should have a plan C, D and E. You should know what your various outcomes are of the strategies and decisions that you make and you should be able to pivot your business accordingly, should it not be working. You should have specific timelines in place so that you know when you need to either pull the plug, or increase your funding and ramp up.

Fear of starting a business is a prevalent concern, but overcoming it truly is achievable with careful planning, preparation and effort. But a big lesson to take on board, in most cases, to quote a good friend of mine - is quite simply to “Just Do It!”

Carl Reader is the author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of