The Right Reason to be in Business 2 – Dealing with Fear

I have come across many business owners who cite ‘fear’ as a key reason that they find their drive and impetus slowing down. When things get rough, when the pace of the money coming in slows down, it is very easy (& understandable) for fear to take over. As a business owner, you worry about the bills that have to be paid, you wonder where the money will come from to pay them. All very real fears and causes for concern.


But what if you were to look at things differently?


What other options are open to you?


To begin with, it is important to recognise that ‘fear’ is an emotion, just like joy, sadness, anger, excitement, etc. But what is an emotion and how can it help you in business?


Kurus (2002) notes that “Emotions control your thinking, behaviour and actions”, and I believe therein lies the crux of the matter. We allow our emotions to control us. What would happen if we controlled our emotions and developed the skills to use our emotions to effectively manage how we live?


I can already hear some of you saying “that’s not possible. How can I control an emotion that ‘just happens’?”


The first step lies in recognising how we are feeling at a given point in time and being able to recognise any changes that occur. Too often we get so caught up in trying to build our businesses that we forget to check in with how we are feeling, i.e. what emotions are we experiencing? It’s easy to feel good when we make a sale, or receive a compliment, the feeling of joy and excitement of having achieved something makes us feel good and very often increases our energy levels. But what about other times?


We sometimes fail to note the times when fear is creeping in, when anger levels are rising, until, that is, it is too late and these ‘negative’ emotions are keeping us awake at night or our health begins to suffer.


Here’s a radical thought; properly managed, fear and anger are very beneficial emotions in business. I believe (and have seen) how recognising and tapping into such emotions have driven clients to develop new plans, new strategies and push their businesses and lives forward with a passion and drive that surprised even them. Think about it.


Fear is a primal emotion. It brings us back into survival mode. Fear is usually triggered at times when our future or safety or security is threatened by an external event. A drop in revenue to your business hits your primal need for survival and triggers your emotion of fear. How you deal with it is the important thing.


Look at any animal in a fearful situation. What do they do? First of all, they Freeze. They stop in order to reduce exposure and to assess the situation. Next up is the urge to Flee. While assessing the situation, our animal friends will look for an escape route. If no escape route exists, the fear turns to anger and the animal will Fight its way out of the situation. It may surprise you to hear that Humans are a species of animal. When we are physically in a threatening situation, we adopt the exact same responses to our animal peers. So why don’t we do so in our businesses?


Instead of letting a fearful situation drive us into depression and ineffectiveness, why not adopt the Freeze – Flight – Fight (I call it the 3-F) approach? Here’s how:


When we encounter a worrying situation in our business (and let’s face it, there can be a lot), FREEZE. Just stop, take time out, examine the situation (the whole situation, i.e. take a holistic view) and make sure you understand the entire situation. Where is the fear coming from? What is the exact cause? etc.


Next up, look at your options for FLIGHT. This does not mean that you should find a way to skip out on your responsibilities and run away. What you are looking for is a way of getting safely away from the cause of the fear by dealing with it or buying some more time to deal with it. By being able to get yourself, even temporarily away from the situation, you will be giving yourself the potential to re-group, re-assess and formulate a new way to deal with the matter and overcome your fear.


Finally, when you find yourself in a situation where you simply have to deal with the situation that has triggered your fear, then your only option is to FIGHT. Again, this does not suggest that you find the cause and have a punch-up. What it means is that you develop the resources to deal with the cause of your fear head on. In order to fight effectively and, avoid just flailing about, we have to change our emotion; our fear must turn to anger. I believe that anger is one of the most beneficial emotions for dealing with fearful situations. Anger begets focus, drive, passion, energy.


By the time you get to adopting a fight approach, you have already assessed the full situation as a result of first freezing and assessing the cause of your fear and worry. You have checked to see if there is a way out of or around the matter. You have established that the matter has to be dealt with and by turning your fear to anger, you will develop the energy, focus and passion to get through the matter. Either way, you are no longer in fear and you will be taking action.


Let me give you an example. A client once told me how he was having sleepless nights as a result of a fear for the future of his business. He blamed the fact that cash flow had dropped significantly and his costs were increasing. He admitted that he was terrified. By adopting the 3-F approach we were able to stop and take time out during one of our sessions to explore the exact issue. In fact it turned out that the core issue was that his bank was asking him to ‘jump through hoops’ to get a simple overdraft (not surprising in the current environment). In fact, it transpired that his fear stemmed from the fact that even  though his business has shown growth week on week throughout the year, the bank he had been dealing with from day one had changed their policies and now had significant red tape for what had been a simple request.


So at the freeze stage, he had arrived at the core of the cause of his fear. Next up was the flight stage. In business banks are a necessary evil. We need them in order to manage our finances, to receive our takings and to pay our suppliers. We cannot do without them. We cannot run away from them, but, we can take our business and move to another bank. We can take up the offers some banks are using to attract business owners to open accounts. So a possible ‘flight’ option would be to move his banking to another company and avail of free banking offers or, reduced cost overdrafts. Problem solved?…Possibly.


For the client, the appearance of options had immediately begun to alleviate the fear that had been keeping him awake at night. Next up was the fight stage. It was hard for my client to dial up any sense of anger. Hard, but not impossible.

Think of a time you experienced fear. There is a chance that once the fear passed, you experienced anger (possibly with yourself for ‘allowing’ yourself to become fearful). In business, we need to turn that emotion into action. In the case of my client, once he realised what had been causing his sleepless nights, he did become annoyed. Using this emotion, he developed the key steps to take action. He went to his accountant to get the accounts for the last number of years. Then he approached his current (and other) banks to get the best deal. He also began looking at every operation within his business to see what actions could be taken to manage strategically. In effect, his initial fear had become the key to a proactive and energetic approach to his business rather than a debilitating factor.


In business, particularly in the current economic environment, we all face uncertainty, slow growth, reduced cash flow and other factors that feed and drive our emotion of fear. However, instead of ‘drowning’ in fear, we already have it in us to deal with threatening events. Just tap into the animal instinct within you.


Try the 3-Fs for yourself…It works.


Until next time…..