Growing a trade business can be terrifying. The idea always sounds great, but the reality can be a bit of a sweat fest. Growth will mean you are suddenly playing with much bigger numbers than you used to. A lot more money in each month, a lot more money out, and a whole heap more to lose (and gain).
Whether you are deciding to grow, or you’ve grown and are now feeling the weight, this fear of growth is actually legitimate. Even a small team can require up to $20,000 a month in operational costs and there are real consequences for getting it wrong. It’s scary. Really, really scary. I know.
There has not been a day in my 25 years of running four trade businesses that I have not felt my heart squeeze a bit at the thought of our outgoings. But if I had let that fear stop me I would not be where I am today.
In his book “The Entrepreneur’s Growth Start-Up Handbook” David N Feldman says that a healthy fear of failure is as equally important to success as a willingness to take risks. So don’t worry if you feel this fear. It’s all good! Fear of failure actually helps you evaluate whether the risk is worth it and helps you strategize to get to where you want to go.
But what do you do if you find fear so crippling that you can’t take the next step? How do you quiet that little voice that asks “What if?” How do you take that leap and hire that new tradie even though it doubles your operational costs? How do you swallow that lump in your throat and borrow more money than you have ever borrowed before?
There are a few tricks that have helped me over the years. Let me know if they work for you.
Get clear oversight of your business
Risk-taking feels scary because you actually feel out of control. It can feel like you are launching yourself into thin air and just crossing your fingers and toes, hoping you don’t fall.
The trick to getting rid of some of this fear is by bringing back control. Making sure you have a very clear, full picture of exactly where your company is at is key. Knowing what your outgoings are, having a clear projection of your incomings and having the ability to quickly and clearly see exactly how you are tracking on any given month will give you the confidence to make decisions and take well-evaluated risks.
I created Fergus to help give my own business this oversight and it has been really interesting to see the number of companies who start growing once they start using Fergus. Having the oversight and feeling in control of their business finally gives them the confidence to take those risks.
Knock off the last three 000’s
I remember the first time I needed to borrow $100,000. I needed to fund some vans, tools, a website and uniforms, but I found myself stuck. It was scary to borrow this money because ‘What if I could not pay it back?’, ‘What if it all goes south?’
A friend of mine, Jeff, gave me some great advice. He asked me if I would borrow $100 if I knew I could turn it into $200? No brainer, ‘Yes.’ Great. So why not $100,000 if I knew I could turn it into $200,000?
I was only stuck because it was more money than I had ever dealt with before. He helped me see that my problem was an emotional one, not a logical one.
His tip to help me get over this fear was to knock off the last three zeros in my mind. If I know I can make money from it, reframe the sum, turn the $100,000 into $100 in my mind, and go for it.
Take the risks that are a slight stretch each time
Like anything else, risk-taking requires practice. The more you do it, the more confident you will become and the more comfortable you will be with taking bigger (but well-evaluated) risks.
Take a look at your business and ask, “Is there a small risk I can take this week/month/year that will push me out of my comfort zone a bit?”
If yes, then do it. And once you’ve done it, find another one that pushes you a little bit further.
Remember regrets are bigger than failure
This last one sounds cliché but it really is true. People only ever regret the things that they didn’t do, not the ones they did.
One thing that successful business owners and entrepreneurs know is that you can always come back from failure. If you can view failure well, you’ll learn from it and you’ll get straight back up and start charging. You will never fail in the same way twice.
If you keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, you will never regret it. You will find that no mistake is ever wasted.