Small businesses are built on big dreams, but unfortunately, not all business owners achieve those big dreams.
Take Lucy and Felicia, for example. They each started their own businesses about six years ago, but where they are today couldn’t be more different.
Lucy’s business has taken off. Her content regularly gets retweeted by industry influencers, she charges premium prices for her packages, and she has a lively, engaged community.
Felicia, on the other hand, isn’t far off from where she started. Her email list is still pretty small. She’s still charging low rates for her services. And her community (if you could call it that) is small and disengaged.
What did Lucy do (that Felicia didn’t) that allowed her to leap so far ahead?
Here’s a hint: She’s not smarter, more dedicated, or better trained. She didn’t have more money or time to invest in her business. And she wasn’t luckier or more charismatic and outgoing.
There’s ONE tiny shift that increased Lucy’s success tenfold. It’s the same shift that separates a successful entrepreneur from one who is just getting by.
The good news is, YOU can make this same shift and reap its benefits in your own business.
Read on to find out exactly what it is and how you can make this shift yourself.
Moving Backward in Fear
Before we dive into the tiny shift that can catapult your business forward, it’s critical that you first have a special insight into the emotion that keeps us stuck: fear.
In her book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, Martha Beck tells the story of her experience at the Londolozi Private Game Reserve in Africa.
While there, she catches sight of several young monkeys playing in the grass and rustling in the bushes nearby. As she tiptoes over to get a closer look, a few of the braver monkeys slowly approach her.
Before they get too close, Martha playfully says, “Whoa!” and waves her hands in the air. The monkeys jump backwards, skittishly squealing at each other in nervous excitement.
A few minutes later the monkeys calm down and advance toward her again—and again she playfully scares them away.
Fear has the same effect on business owners. Like the monkeys, entrepreneurs take a small step forward, get scared, then quickly jump back to safety.
As natural as it is to react this way to fear, it can be painfully detrimental to your business growth to jump backward every time you’re even the slightest bit afraid.
Common Ways Business Owners Retreat in Fear
Not sure if this “jumping backward” pattern is you?
Let’s look at two examples of how this often shows up for business owners.
On social media
You decide you want to be more active on social media. You post on Facebook for a few days, and you’re feeling good about showing up and engaging… at least initially.
But then something happens that makes you worry.
Maybe nobody likes or comments on your posts. Maybe someone responds negatively to your opinion. Maybe you don’t see an uptick in conversion rates, like people not opting in to your list or reaching out for consults.
Your response? You withdraw and stop posting, afraid that people don’t like you or you’re forever doomed as a business owner.
Getting featured elsewhere
You want to get featured on popular websites and podcasts. You’re excited by the thought of guest posting or getting interviewed, so you begin your research and reach out to a handful of potential sites.
But things don’t go as planned. You don’t hear back from anyone, or you write a guest post but only get a trickle of new subscribers.
Or maybe things go great! You have a successful interview and you get lots of new people added to your list. But now that you know what it takes to successfully put yourself out there, you feel overwhelmed by the idea of doing more research and pitching to more people.
Your solution is to hit the brakes and focus on something else instead.
As you’ve probably guessed—or experienced for yourself—this approach doesn’t work!
Why not, and what should you be doing instead?
One Tiny Tweak: Choose Consistency Over Fear
Here’s the thing. When it comes to making it in the online world, consistency is an essential ingredient.
It’s a tiny shift that keeps you continuously putting your energy out into the world, seeking out your people, and trying to connect with them.
Backing off has the opposite effect. While doing so might ease your fears, it also stalls your business growth.
Remember entrepreneurs Lucy and Felicia?
The biggest reason Felicia struggled to gain traction in her business is that she had the bad habit of taking a step forward then retreating back in fear.
Lucy, on the other hand, consistently took action—even when she was terrified or it was hard.
First, you build trust. When your prospects trust you, they buy from you.
Even the monkeys in Martha Beck’s story changed as the result of trust. After a few playful scares, the monkeys realized she meant them no harm and they brazenly started to imitate her in a playful game that resembled Simon Says.
Second, consistency keeps you on people’s minds. Your prospects are bombarded with information on a daily basis. Staying on their radar helps them remember that you’re there when they’re ready for you.
Third, consistency helps you learn what’s working and what’s not. You only gain insights from taking (consistent) action, and tracking your results.
Do You Have Trouble with Consistency?
Consistent action isn’t easy, so it’s important to find creative ways to help yourself stay consistent.
Here are some of my favorite strategies:
Set a schedule
Make time on your calendar to do the tasks or projects that might be scary for you. I recommend taking consistent action for at least a month at a time—so mark your calendar accordingly.
There’s a good chance you’ll resist these blocks of time and try to distract yourself with something easier. Don’t give in.
Hold yourself accountable
How you stay motivated and accountable depends on your natural tendency. Determine which of Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies reflects your personality, and put a system in place for holding yourself accountable. (Need ideas? Read this blog post.)
Remember WHY you’re doing what you’re doing
Writing a pitch email or a social media post can easily feel monotonous, like you’re just a cog in the online business machine. To stay motivated, remember why you’re taking the action you’re taking.
Does the social media post support your values of connection and community? Are you pitching about a topic that you think could positively impact people’s lives?
When you’re in touch with the underlying meaning of your work, it’s easier to take consistent action.
Work through your fears
Every successful business owner I know works with a coach, either regularly or as needed when fear takes hold.
Remember, fear is normal. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It only means you’re stretching outside your comfort zone.
Don’t let the discomfort stop you from taking action. It’s bad for business (and your wellbeing).
Face your fears. Take small steps consistently. Everything else will fall right into place.