Is Fear Holding You and Your Startup Back?

Why don’t we pursue that business idea? Why don’t we make it to the finish line? Is it because we had the wrong strategy, we couldn’t raise capital, we missed the mark on features, or we lacked the right sales model? Those are all great reasons but I think there is another reason why we don’t realize our dreams. It’s fear.

A lot of times we don’t even realize that it’s fear that’s holding us back. Fear comes in many flavors, sometimes is looks like aversion, other times procrastination, or my personal favorite, over analysis. Really what we’re thinking is, I’m afraid of failing, I’m afraid of not measuring up, I’m afraid I’ll let others down…so we play it safe, we work on something else, or we don’t try all.

It is fear that causes us to miss fulfilling the potential for our organization and purpose for our life.

Starting a new business is hard! There’s a lot of uncertainty. And to build something that lasts, we need courage. Having a team that believes in the vision can give you the courage to start the race, gives you the courage to stay in the race, gives you the courage to finish the race, and gives you the courage to get up and start over when you’ve messed up.

When I had the initial idea for GradeHub, I was excited. I designed a prototype and researched the market in a matter of weeks. But then fear settled in. I started to question…how can I get this done? It was only when I started to “run with others” that I started to overcome fear. Initially, I received great advice from Wharton classmates that started their own companies and a few valued business contacts. For the first couple of months, they were our team. Oh, and they were free. With advisors helping you from the start, they can help give you the courage to start the race.

One of my classmates recommended I seek seed investors that not only could provide financial backing but also sound advice. As he said, “if someone is willing to back you, it will validate your idea”…and it helped settle my fear. Because GradeHub’s investors are also industry experts, they’ve provided us invaluable product and marketing feedback. With investors that work as part of your team, they can help you stay in the race.

Although we have development team members working in the US, Germany, and India, we’re all working toward a unified purpose. Because we belong to a team, and that team believes in the vision, the process is not dominated by fear. The development team is a safe place. Building the sense of team takes time. When you know them you begin to trust them. When you’re in that safe place team members are able to do great things. It’s not to say that everything we’ve done has been perfect. I know I’ve messed up several times asking to change this screen or that feature all to have it changed back again, but as a team we continue the race.

Now that we’re transitioning from development to our launch. Fear starts to creep in, again. Will we get noticed? How hard will it be to make cold calls? Will college professors switch from their old scantrons to our new re-imagined bubble sheets? Will it sell? Not surprising, as I set up our sales and marketing programs, I’m going it alone. And when you’re going it alone, fear easily sets in.

I guess in sensing this fear, I began to reach out for advice just like the how GradeHub started (Okay, maybe over analysis too). Over the past weeks, I’ve had meetings with three former sales vp’s from Scantron, a former Xerox sales executive that owns a successful leasing business, and sales VP in the medical field. All have provided great advice from how to gain initial pilots to helping on sales scripts. We’ll be recruiting for our first sales and marketing team members soon. As our team grows, I would expect fear to subside. I’m looking forward to running that race with them.

In business, working in teams with a shared purpose is the antidote when fear inevitably sets in. Don’t let fear get in the way of crossing the finish line and fulfilling your dreams. It is fear that causes us to miss fulfilling the potential for our organization and purpose for our life.

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