According to a study published in the Journal Of Business Venturing, the fear of failure new entrepreneurs feel is normal and can come from up to seven different sources.
The agony of business failure is crippling and sometimes even bankrupting. But the thrill of being your own boss and living a life on your own terms keeps our entrepreneurial fire burning bright.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who has the heebie jeebies about getting started – which I’m pretty sure is… everyone – Spanx CEO Sara Blakely has an important message for you.
Before we get to it, here’s a quick recap on how Blakely became one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the last decade:
- Blakely bootstrapped Spanx while still at her day job selling fax machines. She had just $5,000 in a savings account to make it all happen.
- The last financial data available for the private company was in TK, in which Spanx reported having an estimated $400 million in annual revenue.
- Blakely has retained 100% ownership this entire time, making her… really freaking successful. In fact, Forbes declared her the youngest self-made billionaire in history in 2012.
Spanx CEO: New Entrepreneurs Often Make This Mistake Even Before Their First Sale - Post Outline
When Blakely reflects on her past success, however, she points to what she didn’t do as a key factor to achieving a running start.
What was it?
According to billionaire CEO Sara Blakely, new entrepreneurs fizzle out fast because they confide too much in their friends and family about their business idea.
Why Family And Friends Inadvertently Kill Business Ideas
We understandably want to squash the fear of failure, and we’ll do anything to quell concerns that our next business aspiration is worth pursuing and showing off to the world.
- We pump ourselves up by gathering up “You can do it!” energy from our inner circle
- We first listen to three complete episodes of #AskGaryVee
- We read, listen, and watch business advice extensively in hopes of avoiding the mistakes others have made
These efforts have good intentions. And your friends and family are certainly not secret saboteurs. But confiding in friends and family can cause a familiar foe to bubble up to the surface: Your ego.
In an episode of How I Built This, Blakely shared her insights about it:
“Ego's invited into the mix. And then you end up spending all your time defending it, explaining it and not pursuing it.”
Blakely says sharing an idea in its infancy to the people that already know and love us can make us overemphasize the feedback, opinions, and validations that emerge.
She shopped around her Spanx prototype for over a year without telling friends or family about her new business venture.
An optimistic mindset is critical for every entrepreneur. But take it from someone who’s previously launched an offer to the deafening sound of silence: Nothing takes the wind out of your sails faster than trying to sell a product no one actually wants.
Pursue hard feedback now to prevent it from slapping you in the face later.
How To Validate Your Business Idea
Once you’ve disqualified your mom and your best friend of 20 years from weighing in on your next empire, the remaining insights you receive might feel harsh at times. Here are some important tips to keep in mind.
- Normalize feedback. Research found that 55% of people often or always tie their self-worth to what other people think, and social media makes this worse. Feedback isn’t personal, it’s just business.
- Observe what prospects do, not what they say. These days, when you ask for feedback, a response like “Sounds like a great product” is actually no longer enough. “Can I buy that right now?” means you’re headed in the right direction. Build your offer to align with how people act, not what they say.
- Let go of how you thought this was going to play out. There’s a famous quote from Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we've planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” It’s a good zinger for fortune cookies, but also applies in business, because entrepreneurship is unpredictable.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we've planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” - Joseph Campbell
Go on, then – go after that next business idea. But be sure not to let the desire to impress your loved ones or frenemies distract you from the vital first steps of starting a business. Get feedback from the right people to validate your offer and you’ll see the needle move.
Thanks for reading. 🙏🏼
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