EF Staff

January 7, 2016

As entrepreneurs, we have a lot of responsibility. We have to make big decisions that affect us personally, as well as those who work in our business. We are responsible for creating a vision, determining our mission and values, and putting in long hours to see it all through.

But what happens when you start to question the very business you built? When you start wondering what it is you’re truly doing, is your business affecting any change, or even, is this what you envisioned for yourself?

It’s moments of confusion like this where we tend to look outside our self-imposed bubble and start comparing our business to others.

Entrepreneurs are good at playing the comparison game. We compare ourselves to our competition, to celebrities, to anyone who appears to be doing better than us. What this does is fuel the fear that we are not good enough and, more worryingly, what we’ve created is not good enough.

It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game with successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill and Melinda Gates, and of course, the ethereal Elon Musk.

The fact of the matter is…comparing your profitable business to the likes of Elon Musk is never going to be in your favor.

Let’s talk Elon Musk for a moment. Here is a man who both:

  1. Pioneered the trillion dollar online banking industry with a little company called Paypal.
  2. Took on the trillion dollar auto industry by creating cool electric cars that people want.

As if that weren’t enough, he then took almost all of the money he made and started Space X, a company that competes with NASA and major governments in a continuation of space exploration. He put all his chips on Space X with a goal to expand human civilization by colonizing Mars.

Holy shit…

It’s hard to now look at your own business and not have a minor existential crisis over the fact that you’re not contributing to the greater good.

So where does this fear come from?

Atelophobia: An Entrepreneur’s Greatest Phobia

Atelophobia is the fear of not being good enough. Though it is actually a mental illness, some of its emotional and mental systems are experienced by many entrepreneurs. Symptoms include the fear of failing, low self-esteem, and constant worrying, among others.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that this fear comes from comparing yourself to the competition.

Don’t get me wrong, competition can be a good thing. It can motivate you to work harder and make you strive for bigger goals. It can also be a learning tool, as in business, the competition is often ahead because they found a new or improved way of doing things.

However, if you are going to compare your five or six figure small business to Elon Musk, a man whose personal net worth is in the billions, then you will never feel good about what you are doing — but that doesn’t mean your business doesn’t matter and isn’t affecting change in the eyes of your customers.

We’re all going to have moments of doubt occasionally, but I think that this line of thinking is incredibly detrimental to your businesses success. It encourages wantrepreneurs to do nothing, and for procrastinators to put off doing the hard work that is actually required to do something great like Elon Musk.

Instead of wallowing in self-doubt, here are a few ways to overcome the fear of not being good enough and renew your faith in your business:

  1. Listen to Your Customers

In business, we sell products or services that solve a particular problem. For example, an ecommerce store selling running shoes is fulfilling the need for sport-specific footwear, while an editorial company solves the problem of proofreading and editing.

Regardless of the niche, what they both have in common is customers. If customers are requesting refunds or refusing to buy, ask them why. This will answer the question of whether or not your business is providing a good enough service.

Better yet, reach out to your audience, ask them what they want, and either pivot your current business or build your business on a service that gives them exactly what they want.

If you truly listen to your customers, you can tweak your business and know that you are, in fact, providing a desirable and necessary service.

  1. Understand You May Need to Find a New Niche

Not all niches are the same. If you create a service or product and no one buys it, chances are your “problem” isn’t big enough.

Rather than spend more time and energy seeking a larger audience, find a new niche.

Sometimes the problem you are attempting to solve is just not going to be profitable, and that’s okay.

As Brazilian entrepreneur Florian Hagenbuch so eloquently put it, “Entrepreneurship is like running against a wall, and you keep running into the wall until it starts to fall.”

Simply put, keep at it and you will find a problem worth solving.

Where might you go to find your new niche? Leveraging your current network might be a great place to start.

  1. Your Customers Think You’re Important

Worried you aren’t good enough or your business isn’t important? Just ask your customers. These are the people who believe in what you are offering enough to give you their hard earned cash.

That makes you and what your business is doing important.

So maybe you aren’t solving the problem of pollution, inventing something to reduce the effects of global warming, or creating a spaceship that will send people to a Mars colony. You are affecting change.

Have you ever felt the stomach sinking, gut-wrenching fear that your business isn’t important enough, that it’s not changing the world? How did you overcome this way of thinking and prevail? Let me know in the comments!


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  1. […] is perhaps the most important asset for any entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship, in most cases, is about adding value for your customers and clients; the ability […]

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