Fear of Failure or Thirst for Success…what is an entrepreneur’s biggest drive?

Tony Goodwin, founder and CEO of Antal International

My previous article on entrepreneurship focussed on degree-level education, which I concluded was beneficial, but not wholly compulsory for an entrepreneur’s success. In this article I want to deviate away from the external conflicts of entrepreneurism and into the internal, whether or not our fear of failure is our biggest drive or our thirst for success, monetary and material rewards?

A lot of people think entrepreneur’s take risks with no fear or second thought of failure. This is not the case for me at least. Successful entrepreneurs tend to be very practical and sometimes quite risk averse. You have to have a balance between knowing the risk, assessing it then taking action in order to set up your own business.

In 2001, my business was not in good shape after the dot.com bubble burst which was nightmarish, as at the time we were doing a lot of dot.com recruitment. To prevent failure of the business and support it financially I had to sell my investment property portfolio in Fulham and Chelsea, sell my Aston Martin and eventually was forced to put the re-mortgage consent form for my family home in front of my wife. She asked if I would get through this turbulent period. I considered hiding the truth from her but decided not to. I told her that I was uncertain and that I didn’t know. She asked me for my pen and signed the consent form. She thought I could do it, I had no choice but to strive on and I got through it.

I believe the initial drive for an entrepreneur is their desire and aspiration for success, his or her longing to make money, get material possessions and live a luxurious, independent existence. It’s only when the business settles down, matures and grows that desire transmogrifies into fear and fear of failure begins to take precedence.

Luke Johnson, the serial entrepreneur, says: ‘I like the idea that there can be no plan B. If you wager your body and soul into a venture then you will move heaven and Earth to see it through’ this really resonates with me and I feel it is key to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

My belief is not any ‘if’ involved in encountering business-threatening situations, only ‘when’.  If you are not prepared to deal with difficult decisions, sleepless nights, anxiety and stress, and can simply walk away, you will! And who wcouldn’t!

When I faced this time of my ‘Bette noir’, I saw myself as being on a voyage across the Atlantic, being hit by a storm and then having to decide, with only limited supplies, whether I was to keep on going or retreat back. I had to ignore my fear of failure and press on even though the odds of my success were lower than I would have liked them to be. You must take the stance that you have little to lose.

Entrepreneurs are always thinking of their business. Maybe not with 100% dedication but entrepreneurism is no nine to five job. You can be watching T.V, playing with your children or even resting and a part of you is thinking figures, ventures and progress. There will always be a niggling part of you that is focussed on what could go wrong. If you’re not dedicated, you’re putting jobs at risk, your ventures at risk and watching everything you’ve achieved flow down the plug hole.

I feel overall, that only 40% of my success is down to striving for it, down to taking risks and saying ‘yes’.

The other 60%… Is the fear of losing all I have strived for 22 years to create, start, develop and build and all my dreams disappearing into the fog of distant memories.  For me, that is not an option I am prepared to contemplate.

Tony Goodwin
Founder & Chairman
Tel: +44 (0)207 467 2520