BFI expert insights: Overcoming fear of failure when starting a business (2023)

Whether you want to be your own boss, chase a lifelong dream, or capitalize on a market opportunity, starting your own business is an exciting adventure. But, for many, fear of failure holds them back from realizing their dream. In this edition of Expert Insights, CT Corporation’s Manager of Customer Service, Tim Jensen, explores this common barrier and explains how to harness the fear of failure to your advantage.

Tim discusses the importance of starting your business with an entrepreneurial mindset and being open to learning from inevitable mistakes made along the way. He delves into the benefits of starting with a plan but stresses being agile enough to flex with changing circumstances. He also discusses the importance of support and how resources like BizFilings are a great place to turn to when in need of advice. Tune in to learn more, and don’t let fear of failure hold you back from chasing your dreams.

To learn more about what's on the minds of small business owners, check out the


Greg Corombos: Hi, I'm Greg Corombos. Our guest in this edition of Expert Insights is Tim Jensen, Manager of Customer Service at CT Corporation. In our last conversation, Tim walked us through some very important considerations when you are naming your new business. But often the hardest part is deciding whether to start that new business at all because of the fear of failure. Leaving what seems like a safe job to strike out on your own can be exciting, but it can also be daunting. And Tim is here to discuss fear of failure, and why it can actually be one of your greatest motivators to keep pursuing those dreams. And, Tim, thanks very much for being with us again.

Tim Jensen: Thank you, Greg, it's great to be with you again today.

GC: Well, there are many reasons why people want to start their own businesses. And there are also a number of reasons why they ultimately don't do it. So, you've run the numbers, what do they show when it comes to the pros and cons about starting a new business?

TJ: Yeah, there's definitely some primary motivators that we see from, you know, people thinking about starting their own business. The first one is what everyone would kind of like to the ability to be your own boss, right? You don't have to report to anybody, you only have to report to yourself. Other things are, maybe it's your lifelong dream. Maybe you've seen something in the market, you've got a great idea, you want to take it out there. So all these things kind of play into, you know, your desire to get out there and do something on your own.

But there is one thing that continually pops up that we hear from our customers, that is that barrier to them. And that is that fear of failure. And that has topped the list of challenges for many small business owners for several years running now.

GC: And so that is obviously a major hurdle to get over. And its fear of failure for a number of reasons, certainly, but you say you can actually leverage that fear to your advantage. What do you mean by that?

TJ: Yeah, I think the first thing we need to do when we're thinking about fear is to acknowledge it, and then find that way to leverage it to your benefit. So being afraid of failing is a completely normal response to trying something new, like starting a business. In fact, it's what stimulates us to overcome obstacles and succeed.

So, try not to view fear as something to run from, but embrace the emotion and leverage it to spur you on. Some of the best athletes of all time, they always get butterflies before the competition and they use that to drive them to perform their best.

GC: Having that motivation in the back of your mind, but not letting it stop you is certainly a huge factor in ultimately your success many times. And there's just obviously a lot of anxiety involved when there's fear of a business failing, could be financial, it could be reputation, could be a lot of different things. But you say there are also ways to redefine failure. How do you do that? What's the new definition

TJ: What we want to do is really take a look at what failure means to us. And I believe this can be done with a simple mindset change of how you view failure. So instead of worrying about doing something wrong, looking foolish or not meeting someone's expectations, view any setbacks or perceived failures through something I like to call the mindset of the entrepreneur.

Successful entrepreneurs are grateful for challenges and setbacks, and they view them as opportunities to get better. When you look back in history at some of the greatest entrepreneurs of American business, the one thing they all share is they failed multiple times along their path to success. They eventually became successful, because they view their failures as an opportunity to continually improve their products and services. There's an old quote from self-help expert Steven Richards that I think sums this up beautifully: “the only time you fail is when you fall down and stay down.”

GC: Wow, that really does lay it out there pretty clearly. But of course, if you do end up going through failure, you want to incorporate the lessons of that failure. And, and let's go through some of those ways to avoid either initial or subsequent failures. And right at the top of that list is to have a proper plan and strategy. What does that look like?

TJ: I believe this is the most important thing. We talked earlier on about, hey, this is my lifelong dream. I want to be my own boss and things like that. If we're going to go through these steps, we have to start with a really good plan. And developing and executing a plan and strategy to set you up for success isreally an important part of this. Spending time setting up a sound business plan at the beginning is really the foundation for a successful business.

A well-laid-out plan will help guide you to the important decisions you need to make as a business owner and will give you the confidence to make them and that's the most important thing. And one thing to remember is that while it's important to follow your plan, you must also remain flexible and understand that everything's not going to go your way and work out as you had planned and adjustments will be needed.

GC: We're talking with Tim Jensen, he's a Manager of Customer Service at CT Corporation. It's kind of implied in what we talked about in terms of failing and ultimately succeeding a lot, especially for our most successful entrepreneurs and athletes, and many people we see as tremendous successes in our society today, but of course, they ultimately become successful because they learn from the mistakes and the failures that they endured along the way. So, what should you focus on if you do, in fact, encounter a failure to make sure that you incorporate that and actually make that part of your success going forward?

TJ: Yeah, Greg, and this is really a key point. As I mentioned, things aren't always going to go as planned, right? And when they don't go as planned, business owners want to make sure that they learn from these situations, you know, using that entrepreneurial mindset that I talked about, and that helps bring the most value out of these experiences, regardless of what the outcome is. We can learn from our successes as well as from our failures.

But learning from past failures can help business owners successfully navigate through the challenges they're going to inevitably face in the future—things such as handling growth, new competition, or even a global pandemic. When you think about how many business owners had to adapt and evolve during COVID-19, just to survive, and most are willing to try just about anything to stay in business and in many cases, they made changes that had positioned them well for success in the future.

GC: That's such a good illustration about the pandemic. I mean, you talk about a situation you couldn't possibly anticipate as a business owner, and ultimately, it led to businesses “failing” but certainly not necessarily as a result of how the business was run. And if you do open a new business, you can certainly incorporate and make plans to be better prepared for that, in the future. And hopefully, many people are doing that.

One of the problems though, Tim, is that people often have this glorious vision of how the business will open, how it will run. And it's always building and growing. And it doesn't necessarily anticipate or envision in those dreams of some of the setbacks along the way. And so sometimes this perfectionist mindset builds up and then when there are speed bumps or, or bigger hurdles along the way, that can kind of derail the belief that this will, in fact, be a success. So how do you overcome that?

TJ: We talked about building a plan, right? And part of that plan is, you know, your steps to success. And everybody always wants things to be to go well and be perfect and things like that. What we really want to be careful that we don't like strive for perfectionism. So, I would suggest that we ditch that need for perfectionism. And actually, perfection is one of the byproducts of the fear of failure. We somehow internally believe that if we do everything perfectly, and we control everything, that we've actually decreased our chances of failure.

But we also know that perfectionism is a myth, you know, it's something that's out there, but we can't necessarily always attain it or even attempt to attain—we can attempt to, we can't attain it necessarily. And it can ultimately sabotage us from doing what we really want to do, and at times can become paralyzing, because our pursuit of perfectionism actually takes our eye off the ball and what we actually need to be doing to move the business forward.

So, if an entrepreneur who is just starting out, is holding themselves to an impossible ideal of perfectionism, in order to feel comfortable launching their business, they likely will never get to a place where they do feel comfortable.

So, you don't need to be perfect. You just need to be what your customers need you to be.

GC: You know, starting a business is not a solo operation. Even if you're the one who's, you know, solely running the business, you definitely need a support system. And that can come from a lot of different places. So, who should business owners be looking for support from whether it's from BizFilings or elsewhere?

GC: Yeah, I think it's important that business owners, you know, understand that they're not in this alone, that there are a wealth of resources that are available out there for them to help them educate themselves as they're getting this process going, helping them get all their questions answered.

One of the nice things about BizFilings is they've got a wealth of information on their website, you know, that can be accessed in all different areas, not just a business registration, but growth and taxes and, and all different kinds of things that are out there.

So, I believe the more you know, the more confident you will be. And if you do have questions, you know, BizFilings' customer service representatives are always available to answer them. You don't have to be a customer to get your questions asked and answered.

GC: Lastly, Tim, I could just imagine some folks out there who maybe were feeling a little bit skeptical about whether they could do this. Maybe they're taking some deep breaths now thinking, okay, okay, maybe I can do this. What final words do you have for him?

TJ: I would just say don't let your feel of failure derail you from chasing your dreams. Adopt the entrepreneurial mindset that we discussed, and embrace the notion that you won't be defined by theinevitable setbacks and failures you're going to experience. But instead, you're going to use those as opportunities to get better. In 2020 during the middle of a pandemic, 4.5 million new businesses were starting in the US, which is the most ever. I encourage you to follow your dreams and not let the fear of failure get in your way.

GC: Tons of great advice packed into this conversation. Tim, thank you very much for your time and your expertise today. We greatly appreciate it.

TJ: Thank you, Greg.

GC: Tim Jensen is Manager of Customer Service at CT Corporation. I'm Greg Corombos reporting for Expert Insights. For more information on this topic, please visit

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