What are you scared of?
Like almost everyone, entrepreneurs fear failure. They dread losing customers, shuttering their companies or never experiencing the thrill of running a successful business. All valid concerns, but not nearly as bad as not even trying in the first place, says Annie Xu, general manager of of Alibaba.com (American unit), the global business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce network.
Heading a team of approximately 30 employees, Xu's own career serves as a template for her approach to new business opportunities. An experienced professional in traditional sales, she set aside her apprehensions and dove head-first into ecommerce. A whole new language, English in her case, became a challenge to overcome—not a fear to sideline her.
Likewise, small business owners, many still on guard following the recent economic unease, shouldn't let fear and indecision blind them to potentially lucrative opportunities. "It could be scary," says Xu, but "people need to take charge of their destiny."
Oftentimes, it is the literal fear of the unknown that prevents small businesses from exploring new ways of growing their fortunes. In this case a little research and networking with peers can keep those jitters at bay.
Still unsettled? Xu offers more pointers to help you overcome trepidation.
3 Tips to Facing Down Fear
1. Don't avoid terrifying situations, seek them out
Of course, you don't knowingly want to rush headlong into situations that can endanger your business, but don't discount unfamiliar territory either.
Opportunities may be cloaked in conditions to which you're unaccustomed. For instance, sometimes finding the right market for your great idea or product may entail looking overseas, says Xu. Language, customs and local regulations are no longer barriers in this global economy, even to small businesses.
If you're having trouble making a go at things in your local or domestic market, don't be afraid to give that globe a spin and start doing some research. There are plenty of businesses and trading partners in all corners of the globe that can help you succeed.
2. Welcome change, don't fear it
All too often, entrepreneurs don't let go of the anxieties that naturally crop up at the start of something new. New ventures can be daunting, but clinging to the fear of making bad decisions or wrong turns will surely doom a startup.
"Trust your instincts," after healthy doses of research, building connections and good old fashioned trial-and-error, advises Xu. "You'll be surprised that you soon become an expert in a new area."
You may have to challenge preconceived notions and essentially re-learn what you thought you knew. In short, be accepting of new information and ways of conducting business. "Once you open yourself up and become a master in a new area, it opens the doors to opportunities," she says.
3. Run in the direction that your big competitors fear to go
Often, says Xu, small business owners "can't compete head-to-head" with big companies in a given market. Though everyone likes a good David and Goliath story, the business landscape is littered with mom-and-pop shops crushed by the market clout of huge corporations.
If you're considering a new business endeavor, look for opportunities that your big competitors are avoiding. Often, they are hobbled by "a lot of overhead [and] a lot of restrictions by the board," she says. In this case, the high barriers to entry are self-imposed.
"Small businesses are more nimble," says Xu. "They can adapt to change and move faster." Essentially, successful entrepreneurs rush in where big businesses fear to tread.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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