Fear is a factor to be dealt with in a very small business!
(This extract is from Jean’s 2008 book, One Man Show – the smallest of small business, in which she shares her experiences, and those of Shakespeare, as sole operators)
A One Man Show in Jean’s book is a woman or man who – at a particular moment in time – makes a firm decision to become self-employed as a sole operator/trader. Initially this decision means:
- working alone,
- using your own resources, including capital, and
- a willingness to forego a regular salary whilst setting up and establishing a business that has the potential to be financially viable and provide financial security into the future.
Growth of the business may in time mean moving to larger premises and employing staff – but at the outset, it is a One Man Show! The smallest of small businesses is the One Man Show – small in the sense of business ownership, but certainly not necessarily small in the sense of impact, reach, product range or quality of service. A One Man Show is often referred to as a ‘micro-business’ – a term that emphasizes the business rather than the person: the subject of Jean’s book is the person in the One Man Show.
Introducing Fear of Failure
Several times I’ve heard a person on a secure salary say they are thinking of starting a One Man Show, and following quickly with ‘I can take a year off without pay: if my One Man Show doesn’t work out, I can easily come back to my paid job.’ A similar case is often put by a prospective One Man Show who has financial security, such as wealthy parents or a partner earning a substantial salary: if the One Man Show doesn’t work out, they won’t face financial ruin. Fear of failure is obvious in these statements. In considering transition from earning a salary to a One Man Show, it is wise to consider the words of USA’s World War ll President Roosevelt ‘All we have to fear is fear itself’.
Fear can be an immobilising factor for a One Man Show, and fear of failure is a genuine and real fear. So let’s look at some of the fears people have shared with me over the years – which they feel may lead to failure:
- competitors closing in with similar or better products or services,
- becoming ill or indisposed, therefore unable to keep up with my commitments,
- failing to produce a product or service that sells well,
- feeling inadequate and uncertain about myself or my product or service,
- not finding a financial backer,
- getting in ‘over my head’, and perhaps losing current assets such as my home or car,
- having to ‘win’ contracts by competing with other businesses,
- losing confidence and credibility,
- losing motivation or direction,
- losing someone else’s money,
- having to market myself,
- not having sufficient personal time for family or friends,
- not being able to take a holiday
- not being confident to negotiate financial arrangements, prices, discounts, etc.
- over-committing myself and ‘feeling stranded’.
Failure as a One Man Show is absolutely different to failure as a medium to large business. Failure is often toted as a desirable experience, but how does a One Man Show sustain her/himself and her/his lifestyle – if failure is to be a predictable or frequent companion?
Jean’s Checklist for Managing Fear as a One Man Show:
1. Seriously work through your Resource Base:
This base is what you will work with and from to determine what you can offer, with what value, to whom, and at a price greater than the cost of preparation and delivery. There needs to be an easy relationship between each of these four levels in your own Resource Base – and you are in charge of the quality and management of that relationship. Don’t just think of yourself in terms of your product or service, your age or educational qualification. Think of yourself as a rich resource – indeed, your greatest and most valuable asset.
The One Man Show Resource Base has four equally important and valuable ingredients:
- You (who you are and what you bring), plus
- Your resourcefulness (what you can create and re-create), plus
- Your resources (what they can bring/attract to your business), plus
- Who and what you know.
2. Become familiar with a variety of business methods and systems before establishing your One Man Show – these are the functions that will support your product or service:
- This requires a separation of (a) the way you intend to operate as a business, from (b) the product or service you intend to offer through your business. You can start either by conceptualising your business or your business idea: but it is vital that you separately conceptualise them
- It is most likely that your way of doing business will be determined by your personality, knowledge, confidence, strengths, abilities and ‘comfort zone’
- It is most likely that your product or service will be something that you enjoy, that you either know exceedingly well or are inspired to know exceedingly well, that satisfies your creative urge and will become almost an extension of yourself.
3. Start your own business library – and one of your first books needs to be a Business Dictionary, setting out the language, jargon and terms that you will need to interpret and understand:
- An early purchase in my library was first published in 1967, titled Management, Information and Systems, by A.G. Donald – one of a series titled ‘Pergamon International Library of Science, Technology, Engineering and Social Studies’
- You’ll also need books to guide development of your product or service, and a few that will motivate, comfort and challenge you as well.
4. Adopt project management strategies separately to your ‘business methods and systems’ and to your ‘product or service’:
- Add at least one book on project management to your business library
- Developing a project mentality is an effective approach to life as a One Man Show
- Very simply, it means treating each major activity or responsibility as a project – with a beginning, a middle, and an end
- Project management tools must support and reflect your own style of working, increase your sense of control in and over your One Man Show, and will almost certainly add to your confidence and comfort
- Together, project mentality and project management should help you handle the daily grind of your One Man Show – as well as increase your job satisfaction.
5. Start planning your One Man Show by concentrating on your product or service: when you are sufficiently clear about what you are going to sell and are able to develop a powerful, persuasive and positive message to convince others of the value of your product or service, then begin to work on your business methods and systems:
- As a child, I was captivated by the first manual typewriter I ever saw in 1943: I was eight years old, and my father had the use of this typewriter at home during his election campaign. I simply fell in love with this wonderful machine. I had also fallen in love with my nurse’s uniform given to me by Father Christmas when I was six years old. So I grew up with these two loves
- At fourteen, I visited a friend in hospital and she was given an injection while I was there. I immediately fainted: so much for a career in nursing. But my love affair with the typewriter stayed with me and has proved to be invaluable as a One Man Show and as a writer
- Look carefully at ‘what makes your heart sing’ in finalising your product or service – what you enjoy doing or thinking about, what inspires you, and what motivates you could be the basis for your One Man Show,
6. Decide on the most appropriate legal and organisational structures for your One Man Show to enable you to:
- meet your legal requirements
- monitor your progress
- control your affairs
- manage risk
- ensure a consistent level of quality in all you do
7. Develop a consistent and reliable process and procedure for making complex or contentious decisions – whether you are making these decisions alone or with others:
A decision-making procedure is a series of sequential steps which ensure a consistent approach to decision-making, including:
- identification and diagnosis of a situation, difficulty or opportunity
- reflective development of a plan to relieve or remove the difficulty, or to capitalise on the opportunity
- implementation of the plan’s success or otherwise.
The process of decision-making is the manner in which the procedure is followed to ensure a consistent quality of decisions.
- This will stand you in good stead in all aspects of your business and product activities, and be particularly useful in protecting both you and your scarce resources
8. Deal with the unshakeable facts – and when you know and understand the facts, then – and only then – consider how you feel about the facts, (see page 37 in Jean’s book):
In his book Managing (Grafton Books, 1985), Harold S Geneen addresses the need to identify and analyse ‘unshakeable facts’. Geneen’s words in the following extract (p78) are critically important to a One Man Show:
The highest art of professional management requires the literal ability to ‘smell’ a ‘real fact’ from all others – and moreover to have the temerity, intellectual curiosity, guts and/or plain impoliteness, if necessary, to be sure that what you do have is indeed what we will call an ‘unshakeable’ fact. There are other categories of ‘fact’:
- apparent facts
- assumed facts
- reported facts
- hoped-for facts
- accepted facts
Your first task when considering whether to believe – or act upon – some information you receive, is to ‘shake’ and ‘shake down’ the facts identified in the information.
9. Take careful steps to find a business mentor who respects you and your plans, and can provide you with a listening ear as well as support:
- an effective and efficient mentor is one who looks at every possibility you share with him/her, and responds from the perspective of likely benefit to you and your One Man Show.
One Man Show – the smallest of small business (Jean Roberts, 2008): this extract is from Section 3 Two different – and useful – business life-cycles.