After my first successful exit, 2 years ago, I tried to keep a close contact with the local business community. Although my non-compete agreement was a little bit tougher, preventing me from starting something again on the same market, I somehow managed to keep my business network alive. Looking back (without anger, of course) this proved to be a very good thing to do.
As of August, this year, my non-compete agreement is over and I am already involved in a few local projects. One of those projects is in fact an entrepreneurship-investors event, called Venture Connect. In short, it’s a place where local entrepreneurs can make a pitch about their business an ask for funding from the VC’s. It’s not a competition, meaning there is no prize to be won. It’s more like a networking event. Entrepreneurs get a chance to present their business in front of some (very) big investors and those aforementioned investors get a glimpse of the local market. And there is no limit to the amount of money the investors can put in a business. If someone could convince them they have to put 1 million, they will put it in.
Along with other 3 very respected local entrepreneurs (Radu Georgescu, Marius Ghenea and Orlando Nicoara) I am in the board of this event. The other 2 seats of the board are taken by the initiators, the Biris Goran law house. Basically, my job here is to screen interesting projects, to evaluate them and to make sure they meet a certain criteria.
What does have to do with fear of failure or self-sufficiency? A lot. Being in this position I get a direct response from many of the interested entrepreneurs. Very few of them are actually getting to pitch, although almost all of their businesses are qualified. Today’s post will try to explain some of the reasons behind this rather unexpected response.
Fear Of Failure
Every time I ask some local entrepreneurs if they are interested, almost 70% of them are shaking their head in a very obvious attitude of mistrust and they’re almost invariably answer: “Why?”. Well, because you can accelerate your business, I respond. Grow. Expand. Develop. “Well, I don’t think I’m able to do this. Right now, at least. I don’t know…”
This answer always makes me smile. Sometimes I even laugh out loud, making my conversation partners really preoccupied with my mental health. Behind these sentences I can literally see the real words they’re avoiding to say: “What if I’m not going to make a good impression? What if I’m not going to succeed? What if I’m going to make a total fool of myself? It’s better not to do it at all.” And that makes me smile big time.
Fear of failure is one of the biggest obstacles in business. The difference between successful entrepreneurs and wannabees or just perpetual losers is always made by this. The successful ones aren’t afraid to fail. They have a lower tolerance to risk. They’re ready to jump into something, just for the thrill of it.
Although this Venture Connect event seems like a very technical situation: a bunch of skilled people with their own business facing a bunch of investors, it’s really not. It’s just a transaction. And the same type of transactionsÂ occurs in every business situation. If you want a piece of the pie (or the market, in business terms) you have to make your pitch, convince several million people to consume your product, and find a way to get their money for that. In the case of this business event, it’s even simpler: you gotta make a pitch to convince only one person to get a piece of an already existing pie (the entrepreneur’s business) for a certain amount of money.
Well, no risk it, no biscuit. Fear of failure has nothing to do with entrepreneurship.
The next answer in terms of percentage, amounting for about 20% of the total answers is: “Well, I don’t need this right now”. And it’s a genuine answer. They really think they don’t need money. They’re well as they are. But there’s a big trap behind those words. Usually, I get sad when I hear that. Because, as an entrepreneurs, you can’t really be satisfied. Unless you’re aiming for the comfort zone, which is not a good place to be.
Every business should grow. The business ecosystem is build in such a way that only things which are growing can survive. There is no such thing like: “keep a low profile” in business. You will be squashed like a bug from your competition in a matter of months or, if you’re lucky, years. If you ever feel, as an entrepreneur, that you have did enough, go see a shrink. Because your entrepreneurial vibe is getting way too low.
It’s not a pattern of greed here, don’t get me wrong. It’s a pattern of creativity. Do something better, do something more ingenuous, do something more pleasurable for your clients. But do more than you’re usually doing. Otherwise, your competition will.
So, every time I hear entrepreneurs they don’t really want to get in touch with their own growth, I try to keep away. It’s not a good vibe. And it’s contagious.
In business, money is just a resource. It helps you make things happening. Many entrepreneurs are mistaking money as the ultimate goal. It’s a very good indicator of your business health and money has its own importance in a number of financial reports, but, other than that, is just a resource. Like human resources, or like the building in which you are having your offices.
Every time a young entrepreneur hears about money, I notice a split pattern: they’re either jumping on it, taking as much as they can without giving too much back, or they’re running away from it, as it would be something dangerous.
Between these two categories, somewhere in the middle, there is the relaxed entrepreneur, the one that you read about on Mashable or TechCrunch, securing another round of financing. Or, in my terms, those are the balanced entrepreneurs, the healthy ones. They are accounting for 10% of the answers. One in ten. Not too much.
Well, after all, Venture Connect is just an event. It will pass. But my personal lessons from it are here to stay. Here they are, in just a few paragraphs.
Fear of Failure
If you’re not jumping on each and every opportunity you can face, you’ll never know your real boundaries. You can’t really test your limits unless you stretch them. Unless you put yourself in a very difficult situation, which will, for real, finish with an undesired outcome. Yes, you can have an undesired outcome at some point. The subtle difference is that the undesired outcome is not a failure. It’s just a lesson.
If you think all you have is just enough, you’re doomed to dwarfing. You’re going to be a very happy dwarf, looking for the rest of your life from the bottom up to those who thought they never had enough. Self-sufficiency is just another word for the comfort zone. The sweetest prison of all. But still a prison.
Money is just a form of energy. It helps you translate some ideas into reality. Bringing things into matter. That’s all there is to it. But as simple as it may be, money is a very dangerous type of energy. Because if you’re not taking all the necessary measures to keep the energies balanced, you’ll end up in a wild whirlwind which will eventually take over your life.
In much simpler words, it means that every transaction should be balanced. The amount of money you get should be equal with the amount of value you provide. Being it a product, part of your company, the value of your consulting hour, whatever.
If you’re getting too little for your value, you will become drained. For instance, if you charge too little for your services. You’re putting out too much energy and getting back far too little. You’ll be tired, depressed and sad. I’ve been there a number of times too. And found out that the best way to avoid this is to just leave your current transaction. Go out, find a different one. Balance the energies until you’re starting to feel empowered and relaxed.
If you’re getting too much for your value, you will become vulnerable. You charge too much for what you offer, or, in other words, you’re getting money for nothing and the chicks for free. Be very careful: the extra energy you get, without your control, will eventually take over. The most obvious example is of the people who are unexpectedly winning the lottery. They’re seldom putting something out in exchange of the money they get (some of them are doing it, and they’re managing to live a balanced life) so they become, rather sooner than later, the victim of their own money. In a few years they’re worse than before winning the lottery.
So, where are you now in terms of fear of failure, self-sufficiency and money? I’m just curious… 😉