Monthly Archives: September 2015

Fear Failure? Here’s how to overcome it

Jjumba (not real name), has tried his hands at a number of entrepreneurial partnerships with disastrous conclusions, now he is considering going it alone but has some inherent fear which is all summarised in this statement; “What if my capital is not enough or I don’t get clients for a long time?

Nancy (not real name) always excitedly builds business ideas, romanticises about them, gets peer approval and then stops dead in her tracks when it comes to implementation. She confessed to me that she usually gets gripped with the fear about what people will say and the potential financial setback she is likely to experience if the business idea doesn’t work out.

Many times we get so occupied worrying about the future based on our past experiences or knowledge and end up not acting in the present. This disease is of a similar trait to the procrastination that afflicts almost all human beings at various points in their lives.

So, Yes we fear to;

  • Lose money

  • Get into debt

  • Drop out of our circles of friends

  • Appear non-conformist i.e not doing what society expects of us

  • Rock the boat of stability we have built

  • Be seen as having failed

and many other fears that am sure you can add onto this list.

While fear seems to come naturally to us, it’s crucial that we find ways of overcoming it. Fear is probably a major reason the number of entrepreneurs is limited in the world today. These are some of the ways you can overcome fear of failure as an entrepreneur;

What’s wrong with me? Am I good enough? You occasionally get into bouts of self doubt and disbelief in your abilities. This breeds a level of inadequacy that makes you believe that something is not right. Everything is right about you and you only need to realise that many other success stories would never have been if feelings of inadequacy had been allowed to take over.

Bill Gates, the World’s richest man started a business called Traf-O-Data that failed miserably and he even ended up dropping out of Harvard University in the process. He however held onto his passion and vision for computers to later found Microsoft. The rest is history. It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once,Mark Cuban.

Avoid personalising failure. Failure should not be viewed as your identity. Take the case of this example from the Forbes Website; “There was a man who failed in business at age 21; was defeated in a legislative race at age 22; failed again in business at 24; overcome the death of his fiancée at 26; had a nervous breakdown at 27; lost a congressional race at 34; lost a senatorial race at age 45; failed to become Vice President at age 47; lost a senatorial race at 49; and was elected as the President of the United States at the age of 52. This man was Abraham Lincoln. He refused to let his failures define him and fought against significant odds to achieve greatness.”

Any entrepreneurial journey you embark upon will always have stumbling blocks along the way, this however doesn’t mean that you are the problem, all it means is that you have not found a successful way of doing that something you are passionate about.

Keep Mistakes alive. In rural Uganda, land ownership demarcation is largely done using plants (usually fast growing trees). Back in my village, we use one called ehiroowa which happens to be the Jatropha plant. Mistakes in business need not necessarily be buried and forgotten as soon as they are made, but should instead be used to act as boundary markers on what not to do along your entrepreneurial journey. By letting them play this role, they will always act as your GPS towards avoiding repeated failure in the same area. “Failures, repeated failures are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward towards success,” to quote C.S Lewis.

Watch out for Perfectionism. Psychologists refer to Perfectionism as, “a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations”. While it has its positives, the downsides tend to be manifested as fear of failure and depression which are closely linked to people who personalise failure.

One thing we all have to accept is that life can never follow the script that we design for it, there are always twists and turns along the way towards your goals. The same is true in business and it’s the reason we shouldn’t throw pity parties when hit by failure in business. When something fails to work out, move on to the next modification and quickly find out if that too can or can’t work.

At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” – Michael Law

Desist from Comparisons. The public and sometimes your very family are usually quick to make judgement when you fail. This concern tends to fill your mind with questions like; “What will my parents think about me?; Will my friends still want me around them?; Can I afford to maintain my lifestyle amidst the failure?” Concern for public opinion definitely can keep you in static mode and you need to disengage from it. Considering Abraham Lincoln’s numerous setbacks, he without doubt must have been a trending topic in the gossip corridors on a number of occasions but that didn’t deter his determination.

Worst Case Scenario. If the business doesn’t work out, what will happen to me?” This is a big concern for many going into business and unfortunately it’s further exacerbated by the images painted in our minds of what is likely to happen. Oftentimes our mental thought on this issue tends to veer to the extreme.

The best way to avoid being enslaved by this ‘Worst Case Scenario’ disease is to take time and assess it in detail, you might be surprised to find out that it might not be as bad as it looks.

Reach Out. When faced with failure, it always helps to reach out to people you either feel are already experienced in what you are attempting to do or even those that you could consider mentors. No man is an Island, so avoid bottling up all those questions and challenges. Alexis Carrel once said, “All of us, at certain moments of our lives need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”

I have found sharing a problem or fear with the right audience to be so beneficial and in most cases solution generating.

Rosa Parks, the famous American activist once said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

Is your mind made up?

Additional information got from:


Starting a Business Solo or with Partners – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we dealt with Mutembuli‘s problem of having had two false starts in business with friends and now he’s among other things considering going solo in his pursuits. We saw the advantages of partnering as well as not partnering and went ahead to identify large business brands that had solo founders.

We however didn’t deal with the second part of Mutembuli’s concerns that went like;

… what if I am not able to sustain the business on my own since some of my friends are better in marketing and so on?

What if my capital is not enough or I don’t get clients for a long time?

What will my friends think if I start alone because they are pushing for union yet I don’t trust a few based on [past] experiences?”

In the above comments, it is clear that our friend is seriously considering going solo in his business pursuits and is now ambushed by issues of perception and uncertainty. I sense a general feeling of loss of security that he has as a result of not being able to work with a team of partners. Where trusted friends have let him down, he is not willing to try partnering with unknown people.

Partners help spread the risk, they bring on the table complementary skills and can increase the potential of business success or growth through intrinsic contributions like business contacts, connections in high places, good will among others. However, this is all useless if after establishing a going concern fraud sets in, Mutembuli did experience this. I too would trade a partnership for a solo gig any day under such terms.

Mutembuli poses the question, what if I am not able to sustain the business on my own since some of my friends are better in marketing and so on?” True, we can’t know each and everything as individuals and that is one of the reasons we seek partnerships. However, it is also important to realise that for someone to provide you these complementary skills they don’t necessarily have to be a business partner. You have the option of hiring an employee or entirely outsourcing the services. I stopped having an in-house accountant over four years ago in my consulting business after I realised that for a nominal fee I could maintain the services of a fully fledged Accounting Firm.

You may complain about the lack of money to hire or outsource but if you think ingeniously, there is always a way out. I have thrived on a network of Old School friends who are spread out in various professions to get services at either a low cost or in a barter trade format.

What if my capital is not enough or I don’t get clients for a long time?” There is never enough capital. While you may have some capital to make you comfortable for a while, it will never be enough. I however suppose you are expressing the fear of running out of cash as a result of depleting your reserves as well as the possibility of not getting paying customers within your projected timing.

This is a true possibility and it happens more often than not. It’s the reason few people take up the challenge to traverse the entrepreneurial trail. It involves a lot of boot strapping in both your personal and professional life. Follow the Indian approach if you are to increase your potential to succeed. Spend very little and only a decent steady revenue stream should justify any increase your expenditure. Somehow with the aggression of a hungry lion, you are likely to eventually get in that first business opportunity. So, the best medicine for this challenge is to continuously keep costs low and look for alternative and innovative means of achieving goals.

What will my friends think if I start alone because they are pushing for union yet I don’t trust a few based on [past] experiences?” You have tried it out with your friends and failed more than once, what reason do you have to still consider any of them as viable business partners? What they think about you doesn’t and shouldn’t cloud you from achieving your entrepreneurial pursuits for as long as you have not defrauded them. Rate them against this advice on Ten Worst Partners for your Start-up. Be bold enough to tell them that you want to go it alone this time round and if they are genuinely your friends, they will respect your decision. True friendship is all about being sensitive with each other’s feelings and besides maybe you might have a change of heart in future and partner with them in a different venture all together. Let the ‘We are in the same bus‘ mentality not drag you back. You’ve been in the same bus with them for too long since school and now as adults it’s time to try your own car, maybe it will help you appreciate the bus better.

Alternatively, choose those you trust and once again rate them based upon a checklist of ideal business partners, if they pass, so be it, you can try out your business with the successful ones.

Our dear friend Mutembuli happens to be dogged by fear too and we’ll address this in a separate post due to the nature of depth I want us to delve into.

Dollar Rise good for Uganda’s Agriculture Sector

There are lots of cries especially from the urban dwelling middle class over the alarming rate at which the Ugandan Shilling is depreciating against the United States Dollar. However, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The Agriculture sector could easily be one of the few beneficiaries of the status-quo. Find out more in this article.