What Are You Afraid Of?

I have to admit that when working with companies I get frustrated by their fear of, well, everything. I have always believed in the FDR statement. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That is as true a statement today as it was ninety years ago when that great president said it.

Over the years I have collected a complete list of things people-companies are scared of. Most of them don’t make any sense and in all cases it has hurt those companies. That’s right, the lack of courage hurts companies who are afraid to move forward, afraid to take risks, and terrified to be different.

These companies would rather play it safe; they would rather stand still like a frog in boiling water than to move forward. What is it? Fear of the unknown? Fear of being different? Fear of failure? I think the latter, fear of failure, is the worst reason of all. What are you thinking when you are so paralyzed with a fear of failure that you actually  guarantee failure?

Another adage I love is that if you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough. If you are one of those people who are so scared to fail that you are not doing anything then your nightmare is going to come true. You will fail because in business, if you are not growing, you are dying. That’s it, there is no other way. Not moving means failure.

Here are some real-life examples of what I mean:

  1. You don’t want to highlight your key people on your website or any form of advertising because you are afraid that another company will steal them. Come on. If you have a well-run company and you treat your people right there is no chance that your people will be stolen. If you have  created a great company culture where people can learn and grow to their own personal fulfillment you have nothing to worry about.
  2. You are terrified to let people know the companies you are working with because your competitors will steal them. Really? All your competitors need is the name of a company, and their work is done. Why don’t you ask your own salespeople about this. A name is a name. Knowing the name of a company is only the first tiny step in winning an order from that company. Putting the name of your customers on your web site (if it’s okay with them) is a great way to let people know the kind of company you keep and a true indicator of the caliber of your work. That reward is far greater than the risk of letting your competitor know who you work with. If you’re a mil-aero company we know you are working with Raytheon, BAE, and Lockheed, so what? How does that get them one step closer to stealing them from you? Don’t you think that Raytheon, or BAE, or Lockheed have something to say about that? You have to earn your way onto these companies AVL and it’s not easy and it’s not something you can do overnight. And that applies to all your customers, not just the large and famous ones.
  3. You send your newsletter to ten thousand people and three of them unsubscribe, so you stop sending out that newsletter. That makes no sense whatsoever. So, a few people don’t want your newsletter: big deal. There are always going to be people who don’t kike your newsletter. Who cares? That is no reason to stop sending it out. Do you think everyone liked Mr. Whipple? Or all those Ford 150 commercials? No, they don’t but most do, and those ads sell like crazy. You need to have the courage to keep sending out those newsletters. In fact, you should be making them even more controversial than they are now. You want people to know who you are. You want to be noticed and you want to be found. That is the role of marketing, to make sure you are found!
  4. Your team has come up with a new way of producing PCBs. I harken back to when the first companies started nesting boards (more than one part number on a panel). Most of the rest of the industry screamed “Foul.” The kindest of them saying that this was unfair while some others said it was impossible, while others laughed out of the sides of their mouths about what idiots those innovators were. That this was never going to work. Well guess what, those who took the risk made it happen to the point where they had double sided panels worth over a thousand dollars or more. Think about putting five-part numbers on a panel and charge tooling for each of those part numbers. That panel gets expensive very quickly. Heck you can even offer free tooling on a couple of those part numbers, and you end up with a very expensive panel. It took courage for those companies to take those steps. But in the end it paid off for them.

There are just four examples of where fear struck out. There are many, many more. So, what are you afraid of? What is keeping you from having the courage to try something new? Always remember that a coward dies a thousand deaths. Go ahead, stand up and be counted. Give it a try. Try something new and frankly, not that dangerous, today. I guarantee that it will make you a better company in the end. Oh yeah, and make sure you keep that quota of mistakes up as well. The more things you try, the more mistakes you’ll make and the more you will learn and grow. It’s only common sense.