Winning the Inner Battles: The difference between the success and failure of a small business

As a lifelong entrepreneur and a long-time business coach, I spend a lot of time thinking about the reasons why some entrepreneurs get everything they want from their business, while others struggle along, accept less than they had hoped for and eventually fail. If you’ve ever owned and operated a small business, you’ll remember the feelings of pride, joy, and a passionate belief that you’ve taken a big step in your life. Everyone that starts a new business does so because they believe it will make them happier. They have visions of success and a nervous energy that sometimes makes it hard to sleep at night. We can’t wait for the next day to arrive so we can get back at it. Sooner or later reality sets in and we start to question our sanity. Am I crazy? Why did I start this business? What made me think I could make this work?

This happens to everyone, and anyone who tells you different either has never started a business from scratch or has selective memory. So getting to this point is inevitable. It’s what you do when you get there that counts. Why do some entrepreneurs sail past this stage and take their business to the next level, while others stagnate or fall back? They figure out how to win two key inner battles.

Battle #1: It’s not my fault!

When stuff happens in life, or in business, we have two choices. We can take on the victim role. For a business-owner that means blaming things like a bad economy. I can’t help it if my customers don’t have the money to do business with me. Ignoring the fact that all sorts of businesses continue to succeed in tough economic times. Or, we can accept responsibility for what happens in our life. When it comes to your own business, it is only common sense to accept that it’s on you.  As a small business owner, we get to make all the decisions. If things don’t work out the way you hoped, it makes no sense to place the blame on anyone else or anything else. Heck, that happens all the time, and it’s not going to stop. Successful entrepreneurs accept responsibility for what is happening in their business. The fancy way of saying this is that successful entrepreneurs have a high focus on control.

Battle #2: Overcome Fear of Failure

You’d be amazed how many times I come across entrepreneurs that are unhappy with their current situation and know what they have to do to fix it. This can make for a very uncomfortable feeling. On one hand, it feels great to have a plan, but what happens if it doesn’t work? And many times, the actions we need to take are outside of our comfort zone.

At that stage some entrepreneurs make it a full-time job to find reasons why they can’t do whatever it is they need to do. Other work comes out of the woodwork. They add all sorts of tasks to their “to do” list and stay busy doing things they’re comfortable with. Especially if there is no chance of failure. I mean if there is no measurable result attached to the activity, how can it fail? And guess what, whether we know it or not, every one of us has done this from time to time. The reason we do this is we fear failure.

The more important the task (meaning the more we have at stake), the greater the probability that we will find a reason to put off the action that is required. It can be hard to overcome. I’ve struggled with this my entire entrepreneurial career. But recognizing the challenge, I start each day by making a short list of 2-3 things that have the greatest potential to help me take my business to the next level. I get those things done first or schedule a specific time to do them over the course of the day. And it’s a lot like riding a bike. Once you’re in the saddle and peddling the fear of failure slides away and you get on with doing your job.

Show me a successful entrepreneur, and I’ll show you someone that accepts responsibility for everything that happens in their life and prioritizes the parts of the job they fear the most. Does the fear disappear over time? Some of it, but since we never stop caring about the success of our business, there will always be activities we’re tempted to put off. Resist the temptation and you’ll feel a whole lot of relief and dramatically increase your chances of success with your business. 

By Denise Alison