“Start your own small business!” Now there’s an exciting phrase with a sting of fear in its tail. I mean, just look at each word in isolation:
- Start! What a fun and magical thing that is, right? Your business wasn’t there, and then — hey presto — it was! All because of you. But beginning a thing is the ultimate act of putting yourself out there. What if it falls in a heap?
- Small! Again, how cool. You’re the small and plucky underdog: The sharpshooter David to a hulking Goliath, the indomitable Captain Picard to the mighty Borg. But what if you miss? What if you’re (gasp) assimilated?
- Business! Was there ever a more ambivalent word in the history of morphemes? Business. Ug. Even saying the word feels serious with that explosive B right out of the gate. People make money when they do business. They lose money too.
The point of juggling these flaming bowling balls of meaning in your direction wasn’t to send you scrambling for the Pepto-Bismol. We just want to acknowledge that the idea of starting your own small business is an inner journey as much as it’s a list of things to do.
It’s exciting, sure. But it can also feel scary and overwhelming and filled with uncertainty — especially in those tenuous first couple of years of operation.
So, let’s tackle the fear head-on, shall we?
In this article, we’ll look at three critical ways that fear and uncertainty can get in the way of your success. We’ll look at how those fears can pigeonhole your efforts with unnecessary limitations. Then we’ll offer some solid, practical steps you can take to cultivate a bold and fearless mindset.
Here’s what we’ll look at:
Table of Contents
Fear 1: Being everything to everyone.
Here’s how this one goes, at least in general terms. You’re starting to get some business traction! Great news! All that promotional work you did early on is beginning to yield dividends, with sparkly new customers wending their way to your front door.
Suddenly you become painfully aware that your team and time are excruciatingly finite. You just can’t do it all, and for the first time, new kinds of questions loom large on your business planning horizon…
- When should we say no?
- What kinds of products and services shouldn’t we offer?
- How should we specialize?
Now to be pragmatic, there’s no question that “niching down” makes sense as you transition from a scrappy startup to an established small business. But that fear often takes hold and can push small business decision-making too far the other way.
How the fear limits you
A business beset with this fear will rapidly arrive at a headspace where agility and opportunity become dirty words. The biz just churns out the same heterogeneous string of products and services over and over.
And just like that, this business is in a fixed trajectory with no gears. Its demographic is set in stone. Its branding is on lock. Its growth strategy plods along like a … like a … vegan zombie — a vombie (c), if you will.
How you can overcome it
The best thing you can do to overcome this fear is to remind yourself that your skills are an asset. If you needed a car to reach your customers, you wouldn’t sell your car or stop maintaining it. Your skill set is just the same.
Keeping your and your employees’ knowledge base fresh is a key part of having somewhere to go, somewhere to grow. Learning needn’t be expensive or time intrusive, either. Check out Udemy’s vast library of training opportunities.
And, of course, being all about communication here at Ruby, we’d be remiss not to remind you of our curated resource hubs. These troves are filled to overflowing with information to enlarge your communication perspective. Check it out here.
Fear 2: Getting lost in a conversational cacophony.
You’ll probably immediately recognize this fear and its impacts if you’re an introvert.
Imagine you’re in a big room filled with different people. You’re tucked away in a corner, fancy beverage in hand, comfortably engrossed in conversation with an old friend. Now here comes the six-million-dollar question: Do you stay right where you are, happily locked into the same familiar conversation you’ve had a thousand times before?
Or … do you venture out into the sea of unfamiliar faces?
Of course, it could be great! But there’s always that fear of awkward silences, of falling headlong into an encounter you’d rather not have, of being surrounded by a roaring conversational tidal wave you can neither dive below nor surf over.
All the same fears apply to you as a small business owner thinking about expanding your outreach into new channels. Again, it could be great! An expanded social media presence may bring a bevy of well-heeled customers to your front door.
It could also be unpredictable, time-consuming and … frankly … overwhelming.
What that looks like
It really boils down to the shape of commerce today. Flash statistic! Close to 80% of small businesses use social media to attract new customers, and just shy of 70% of US adults routinely use social media to find new businesses, according to an extensive 2023 survey of buying habits.
Like it or hate it, curtailing your social media presence places you out of contention with the vast majority of new customers.
What you can do about it
Practice moderation. Yup. Do mess with Mr. In Between, because, really, he’s a pretty nice guy.
The sheer number of channels out there can feel like a tidal wave at times, but you don’t have to dive in without a plan. All it may take, initially at least, is getting your feet wet. There are any number of social media strategies that offer a stepwise approach to scaling up your small business presence, but the US Small Business Administration is about as sensible as it gets and a great place to start.
But before you get down to nitty-gritty-brass-tackery, we advise setting grit and sharp objects aside for a moment to consider the basic principles of good communication. The real key to rising above the conversational tidal wave is to keep yourself connected to real, actual stuff:
- Go slow: Less is more. You don’t need to expand into every available channel, spamming out all you know to everyone all at once. Choose a platform. Take your time. Consider what should be said, then say it. Then move on to your next message. Set your sights on offering solid content tailor-made for a unique and inquisitive audience.
- Be bold and honest: Or, to put it another way, be yourself! As we say in the article linked above, “Customers want to meet you and your team; they want to know your story.” Don’t disappoint your fans by suddenly getting all uppity and generic.
- Find your niche: The world is fed up with pre-baked communication formulas! That bland professional voice bores people.
Above all, persist. Conversations aren’t predictable things. Some go well; others don’t. But the only way to find your way into the best conversations — the kinds that build strong connections of loyalty and trust — is to put yourself out there … every single day.
So, keep at it! And if you need help, you know Ruby has your back. We have decades of experience in enriching our customers’ outreach with real people and smart, friendly voices.
Fear 3: Growing too fast, too soon.
People management is one of the most difficult aspects of running a business.
On the one hand, more people give you more reach. It’s beautifully exponential, too, with each new addition to your team ricocheting new skills and insights across your existing workforce like joyful ping-pong balls.
On the other hand, all that human potential comes at a steep cost. What if you grow your team too fast, too soon? Suddenly that dream of added potential can become a nightmare of restructuring, belt-tightening, and even layoffs.
Why this fear needs kicking to the curb
If a small business caters too much to the fear side of the human resource equation, something decidedly not usually happens: The business languishes. Decision-makers and course-setters in your team don’t want to take on more work because … that’d require more people … meaning more mouths to feed … meaning more livelihoods at stake.
Round and round it goes, and with each revolution, the business becomes a little less resilient, a little more frail in the face of the ever-voracious competition.
Why a bigger team investment needn’t be quite so scary after all
What we’re dealing with here is what circus ringmasters refer to as a “balancing act.” You overcome this fear not by going in all guns blazing, not by running screaming for the exits, but – much like a proverbial cat on a wobbly thing – by being keenly aware of the importance of balance.
The other thing you can do is get help! Companies like Ruby can help you maintain your workforce balance by giving you the invaluable option of scaling up when you’re growing and scaling down when your needs retract.
This makes your life easier, for sure, but it also equips you with the option to just go for it when you see a new growth opportunity around the corner. Want to learn more about how our live virtual receptionist service really works? Get started here.
Everyone experiences fear at some point in their professional and personal lives. It’s what you do to process that fear that sets your path. And remember, small is mighty! As a small business owner, you have agility on your side and a world of opportunities to seize.
The bottom line? You can be a small business and still think big!
Ruby can help you on your way with a suite of services designed to keep your communications sharp and your customer outreach friendly. Pick your Ruby plan here.