Fear of the unknown in business

I wrote a little about being courageous in business a while back and was reminded that FEAR can stand for False Evidence Appearing Real (thank you Martin). Now we may often be worried about doing something that is a complete leap in the dark especially if there is a serious financial risk. We all have to be realistic, which is why I am not starting a bakery. I have no experience of baking bread (well, not much) and would not know anything about making fancy cakes, which I think I would need even if I brought in specialist bakers. The problem is I know nothing about the trade and would have to learn from scratch.

What does surprise me is when there would be no downside in trying something new. I thought of this yesterday as I was out walking and passed the long jump area on a school playing field. In the long jump, even if we think we are not great jumpers, we might as well have a go even if we shut our eyes at the moment of the big leap. After all, we are going to land in a nice soft sandpit, and you never know, we might just have performed a great jump.

As far as I am concerned, anything is worth a go if it might improve my business and it would not even cost me money. If there is a cost, we still should try it if we can weigh up and perceive a good chance of success.

What is the problem for many? Self doubt. People find excuses. “I have never tried it.” “I don’t think I can do it.” I have heard it this week from computer literate business people of my vintage. “I am too old to try Twitter.” Well, try it. Ask someone to point you in the right direction. If you don’t get it after a few weeks then give up, but in the meantime you do know how to have a conversation, don’t you?
Rain forest lizard
It’s the old instinctive reaction, the knee-jerk, the lizard brain which Seth Godin often talks about and which stops people doing what they know intellectually they should. Even very intelligent people may resist an unfamiliar experience.

My father is in his late eighties and manages to order my parents’ supermarket deliveries on-line. If he can do that, why can’t we try all the new opportunities and tools available to improve our businesses? What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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Have we bred a dependent society?

As part of the election coverage Sky News ran an interview with an IT manager who had been out of work for fifteen months, The angle was to ask what he was looking for amongst the policies of the various parties to encourage him to vote, given that he was apparently a floating voter.

If you have read my posts over the last year or so (and thank you if you have) you will know that I tend to be somewhat unimpressed by those who expect everything on a plate – the “what’s in it for me?” brigade.

It is not that I do not have sympathy for the unemployed. After all I was forced to try out unemployment for myself. After spending a month or so in the gym trying to deal with my angst, I realised that I had to make something happen.

I assume that an IT Manager has some IT skills and is not one of the school which believes that the art of management is telling other people what to do. Surely after fifteen months he has rustled up some activity to make a few pennies to supplement his state benefits? Even if having some earnings reduced his benefits, surely for his own self-esteem he should be doing something to keep his hand in? One thing is certain; few people after a significant period of unemployment can expect to walk back into a job just like the one they used to have. The longer the unemployed do nothing, the more difficult it is to find work.

I had to get my hands dirty doing some things I hadn’t done for years, and a couple of things I had never dreamed I would have to do to earn some money.

I do not claim any virtue. In some situations we act out of necessity. Life is hard for many now, especially on the job front and for the unskilled in terms of options. If we have skills we can adapt, even perhaps drastically, there is no excuse for waiting for the world to come to us. We have to get on our bikes and go out into the world to earn some money.

What do you think?

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Why we should not always take the easy way in business

If you are as lucky as I am, you will enjoy your work and running your own business. We have at least some control of our destiny even given the trials and tribulations of the economic downturn. However, I was reminded the other day by a non-business story I heard that because we are happy with something we do or want to do, that does not mean that we have the right approach.

A couple I know have a perceived issue with the husband’s elderly parents who live in a rural village a couple of hundred miles from our friends. The son and daughter-in-law both work full-time in the Big City and live during the working week in their apartment in town. They have a house in the country which they use at weekends. They do not often manage to make time to visit the needy pensioners; maybe only three or four times a year.

Because the senior citizens have slight mobility problems and poor health, our busy pair suggested that they sell up and move to somewhere near their own country home so that they could be “on call” in case they were needed. Of course they would only be able to visit for an hour or so at weekends because work commitments in the City would keep them away from Monday to Friday.

The whole problem with this plan is that it is not a solution. What the old couple need is to have proper support provided at home through the social services or “meals on wheels” and at least someone dropping in every day to see they were all right. They need to feel they still have their independence. They do not need to be uprooted from the village they have lived in for so many years and taken away from their friends and neighbours. The plan is just to make the slightly younger generation feel better in that they have done something, but it would be the wrong thing and inadequate in terms of support even if the seniors agreed to the move.

There is a risk in business that we take what seems the easy way out in a similar vein. We avoid some marketing which makes us uncomfortable, some allow their fears of networking to prevent them from getting out, and many of us keep picking up and servicing the same sort of unprofitable clients and customers because we are used to doing it and we do not have to get out of our comfort zone. We may even be tempted by these “Get Rich Quick” schemes with which we are assailed via email and the post.

Well, sometimes what may make us feel better in the short-term is simply not good for us. By gritting our teeth now and maybe doing something which goes against the grain (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else) we can be happier in the longer term. If we make the changes we have feared to make our business better, we will be happier down the line.

When I was a small boy (this dates me) the doctor sometimes prescribed some horrible pink medicine which came in a bottle with a cork. It tasted nasty but it made me better. Have you got that pink stuff in a bottle on your business shelf? Find a spoon and take the medicine. You won’t regret it.

© Jon Stow 2010

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