What Fears Are Holding Your Small Business Back?

Halloween is almost here and creepy things are everywhere. It’s the time of year when we enjoy a good fright. But are there other (not-so-fun) fears holding your small business back from getting where you want it to go?

One of the joys of running your own business is that you get to decide what happens next. You don’t have to do what a boss is telling you. But sometimes, that can backfire if you avoid doing things that make you scared or uncomfortable. Yes, you may be able to get your business to a certain level of success without ever facing your demons. But if you want to achieve breakthrough growth, you need to push past the fears that are holding you back.

business fear

What kinds of fears are you facing (or failing to face)?

Below are some common ones:

Fear Of Technology

Technology moves so fast today that sometimes it’s tempting to just throw up your hands and say, “I’ll never get up to speed.” Well, your business can’t afford that attitude. Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool technophobe, you need to get over it, because today technology is essential to give your small business an edge.

Start by hiring someone (inside or outsourced) who knows the stuff you don’t and can get your company up to speed. If you must, take a class (online or off) to learn the basics. Enlist a patient friend to tutor you. Anything that gets you comfortable with what you need to know.

Fear Of Sales

This is a huge one for lots of entrepreneurs, myself included. When we first started our business, I struggled with fears of seeming pushy, aggressive or money-grubbing when I went out to ask for the sale. I wish I could tell you there’s some easy formula for getting over this fear, but there isn’t.

I just had to do it over and over, until it got easier (I didn’t say easy). Practice makes (almost) perfect.

Fear Of Being A Boss

When your company is young and small, it’s easy to feel like you and your tiny team are pretty much equals, and that’s more comfortable for many entrepreneurs who don’t want to be perceived as the distant “boss-man.” However, as your business grows, you’ll have to distance yourself a bit so you can take on sometimes scary tasks like making unpopular decisions, or disciplining employees who aren’t working out.

I’m not saying you can’t be a nice, friendly boss, but acknowledging that you are the boss is a crucial step in getting your business to the next level.

Fear Of Networking

It’s easier than ever to network through social media today, and many of us are great at that. But you also need to go offline sometimes and get up close and personal. Networking has earned an unfortunate reputation as phony “schmoozing,” but in reality, it’s how relationships are built and business is done.

Make sure you invite your online connections out for coffee or lunch on a regular basis, attend networking events and industry conferences, and generally put yourself out there. If you’re shy (like I am), start with things in your comfort zone (like coffee with one person) and move up to the big leagues gradually—but do move up, or your business won’t.

Fear Of Success

When you get stuck in the day-to-day running your business and making payroll, sometimes your sights get set too low. Do that long enough, and you may decide it’s not worth dreaming big because you’ll never get there anyway.

That’s the surest route to business stagnation and a ho-hum life. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, take your eyes off the ground and make time to look at the stars.

Fear Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

24 Reactions
  1. I own a web design company and the fear of sales was big for me because I didn’t want to seem like I was forcing someone into buying something they really didn’t want. If they said no I just felt as if I should move on to the next potential client. But, I realized that 1, no one was going to bring in new clients if I didn’t do it and 2, sales is part of business and if you can’t do it you probably shouldn’t be a business owner. Comfort comes with repetition and time so don’t give up.

    • I agree with you A.V. Asking for the sale has always been something I’ve struggled with as well. I’ve worked in sales most of my life (telemarketing, direct sales, etc.) and I always had a terrible time making my quotas.

      I currently run my own blog centered around online traffic generation and I monetize it through affiliate programs. Most of my sales are made through building a relationship with email marketing. With this type of model, it’s easier to make sales because I’m selling while building a relationship and providing information. However, I still have to keep it balanced as far as how I’m presenting the information and not being too pushy with the sale.

      Repetition is certainly the mother of skill. I haven’t yet perfected the formula but I know that through repetition it’ll get much easier.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it 🙂


  2. Rieva
    Great post. I have been thinking about doing a post just like this! “What Are You Afraid Of?” or something very similar. I hear it a lot these days — excuses, fears. Maybe it is the election or the economy. But once we face the fears, and find the path to overcome, or at least challenge/battle, we can triumph. Thanks for posting this!

  3. I think that many people just need a little support and a plan that involves small steps. For networking it can be to give out 5 business cards at an event. For technology, it can be going to Best Buy and just familiarizing yourself with new tablets or phones.

  4. I fear criticism and I think that turns into all these other type of fear.

  5. When I started working (a number of years ago), I had a serious fear of public speaking. I was fine one-to-one or even in front of smaller groups but more than 8 or 10 was too big a crowd for me! Unfortunately, the only way I got over my fear was by actually speaking in front of groups. I would prepare and practice; now I’m pretty comfortable in front of any size group – as long as I know the subject I’m talking about!

  6. Great post! Exactly what many entrepreneurs have in mind right now. The worst of all might be fear of sales, because when you are a profit company, you can’t reach success if you do not get sales!

  7. I’ve found having a mentor can really help with overcoming fears. It’s invaluable having someone you can reach out to when you hit a brick wall, need an impartial opinion on a new product or service or simply to hold you accountable. Tehmina

  8. I would love to have one mentor, or be part of a mentoring group who help each other. I’m co-authoring a book about the baby boomer history and nostalgia, self-publishing it, and trying to raise funds for the hired publishing team all at one time. Plus a little social media, marketing to get pre-orders, and more. H E L P

  9. Cernan Sixtyeight

    My biggest fear is the possibility of a Romney administration along with GOP majorities in Congress. That would be fatal for small businesses (I mean less than 150 employees, even family businesses with less than 30 employees). We’d lose all of the benefits we’ve received under Obama. In addition, the job creation trend would reverse and there would be less people working which means less money spent by consumers so there would be less business for small businesses. We may even have to lay off folks due to the reduction in business and higher health care costs from a GOP administration.

    Until I see the results of the election, I’m holding back on any new initiatives, new hiring, new investment.

  10. Hi,
    According to me, my greatest fear is fear of sales. I believe in this competitive world, every individual wants to become successful. Thus, it is important to make sure that the right techniques is used for the success of sale and hence profit is made from the sale.

  11. Good breakdown of the types of fears small business owners face. One of the things I’ve noticed in my work with small business owners is the choice of words we use. The words we use for and against ourselves are full of information about our beliefs about our capabilities. To effectively lead a business through growth, it’s important to change the type of language we use on ourselves so we perform at our best.

  12. after my first year in business for myself, I am about to be more on the side of fear of losing the house if I dont get more clients! I dont have time to have fear of success!

    • Belinda http://www.clientattractionmentor.co.uk

      Well Bruce, you dont want to proof the nay sayers right. If your WHY! is important to you, you’ll pick up the phone and make those calls.
      Cold calling is part and parcel to business growth, so stay focused on your WHY AM I DOING THIS??

  13. Thanks everyone for your thoughtful responses.

  14. I would say that fear of sales is the number one fear when it comes to jumping in to business, without sales you have no business.

  15. Great article, as well as resource site. For each of us I imagine the answer can be different, as well as uniquely and equally relevant.

    One of my initial fears own/run my own biz was how to best handle a “high maintenance client vs. handling an easier going type of client”. I come from the school of…”you can’t give a client too good of service.”, which strangely seems like a non-existent trait in some others that I seek out service’s from, but I digress.

    After you are in business for a while, you learn that fear is a waste of time and energy. You just need to deliver great service or content, get connected with new great people and opportunities every day, stay focused, give back, reward yourself, and hopefully enjoy life.

  16. This is a smart read for all small business owners and would-be business owners as well. To help combat these fears, one needs to simply pause for a moment and analyze his business location first. He will be surprised to learn that doing so will save him from all the fears that hold him back.

  17. Belinda http://www.clientattractionmentor.co.uk

    Great article. All small business owners need to set some goals that support the vision they created as part of the road map.
    3 tips
    1. Effective Time Management
    2. Get a PA to support you, you cannot do everything by yourself.
    3. Building rapport, through networking – getting to know your niche/target customers.

  18. This is a very interesting article. I was struct with this line “Practice makes (almost) perfect.” Thanks 1 Keep posting !