Small business owners face unwanted fears on a regular basis – dare I say daily? Personal or business cycles rear their heads frequently, just to make things harder than they have to be. A certain anxiety always seems to accompany ownership and accountability, but there are ways to reduce and manage these stresses.

As a remedy for public speaking fears, we’re told to imagine that the audience is naked. Frankly, I never really figured out if this works, but the point is that you could control the fear once you face it. But, let’s back away from the clichés.  Consider the following five tips to help manage fears:

  1. Remember why you started your business! You wanted to be in charge. You liked the idea of more freedom from the big boss and big business environment. You accepted the accountability and the risk of doing something fresh, new, and on your own. Everything you see and hear tells you that success is not guaranteed, and rewards may not equal the effort. So, you see, you’ve overcome fears already.
  2. You are not swimming alone! While you may have taken the risk to dive in the deep end, remember the pool has sides, and there are buddies in there with you. Make a plan and stick to it from the start. A well-drawn strategic plan draws the lines that keep you on course and include a network of advisors and peers with ready and invaluable support. Count on them to hold your hand and be not afraid. A sure sign of surrender to fears is losing contact and building walls between yourself and others.
  3. Say your morning prayers! Literally speaking or not, the surest strength you’ll find is some regular commitment to some positive thinking, spiritual guidance, meditation, exercise, or whatever brings you the comfort of focused thought to where you are and where you want to be at the end of the day. Likewise, at the end of the day, some effort at debriefing or decompressing makes it physically, neurologically, and emotionally easier to move forward.
  4. Forget about fears! Fears are not real; they are learned behaviors. Someone teaches us to fear a hot stove or snakes in the grass. The fear of failure, of getting into debt, or of losing face is all learned behaviors. If so, they can be un-learned or managed. Let fears drive your performance. Inventory it and audit it. Fear burns energy, and burning destroys or scourges. Let it drive your business as fuel would. Identify it, channel it, and use it well.
  5. Consider the option! Surrender to the paralysis, or make lemonade. Give into fear behavior, or embrace it as an opportunity. When fears raise a barrier, move to the right or to the left; you’ll find a new and clearer path forward. Success is rarely a forward motion. It evolves and reflects its own dynamic. Accept the fact that fear is motive and energy, and it may be the key to success.

Admittedly, this may come easier for some than others.  The clients I counsel often find such fears are a painful reality, not easily planned away.  Still, the experience I bring to the table allows me to absorb and relieve at least some of the stress, in part because clients finally have a “partner” that can help them constructively meet obstacles and plan for future challenges.


By Steven Schlagel