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“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill

This Small Business Week, we are proud to celebrate the small business owners who are brave enough to have big dreams. There are many attributes ascribed to successful entrepreneurs, and ‘courageous’ is often one of them.

What does it mean to be courageous in business?

Having courage means you are willing to embrace risk. If you aren’t willing to take risks, you have to be satisfied with the status quo, and not many entrepreneurs would describe themselves that way.

Entrepreneurs Take Smart Risks to Get Rewards

The very act of starting a business or being your own boss is inherently risky. Yet every year, thousands of Americans are willing to take that risk. Why? Because the potential rewards outweigh the potential risk. The rewards of building something greater than yourself, of providing a new product or service that fills a true consumer or business need, and of being responsible for your own destiny.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, an estimated 514,332 new businesses were started in 2014. The bad news is that an estimated 548,159 businesses closed during the same period. Why? Perhaps some of them didn’t take the right risks.

Opportunities Don’t Come with Instructions

Unfortunately, opportunities don’t come with instructions, and you won’t see a big red flag when faced with a new product idea or an offer to partner. It would be nice if risks came with a warning label, but they don’t.

So how can you determine if a risk is worth taking?

  1. Evaluate upsides and the downsides. Make a list of the advantages of making the move you’re contemplating, then list the disadvantages. If the list of advantages is longer than the list of advantages, it’s probably a risk worth taking.
  2. Do your due diligence. If you’re considering a partnership, learn all about the other company. If it’s a new product line you’re thinking about, investigate the market thoroughly.
  3. Protect yourself. Since you’ve already given some consideration to what could happen if things turn out badly, next you want to think about how you can protect yourself in that situation. This may mean using multiple suppliers for the materials for a new product line, or adding business liability insurance to protect against lawsuits.

Understanding which risks you can reasonably take, which ones you can protect against and which ones you should avoid at all costs will enable you to be courageous and will improve your chances for success.

American Entrepreneurs Are Courageous

American entrepreneurs are a courageous bunch. For some, courage means introducing a new product line or service, branching out in a different area. For others, it means borrowing money or bringing in an investor in order to expand. It may mean hiring additional employees, or even expanding overseas.

The Hiscox American Courage Index studied courage among entrepreneurs in the US. The study showed that small business owners are 17% more courageous than the general population. Millennials tend to be more courageous than other age groups, and the wild, wild West is the most courageous area of the United States. The Index also found that courage among American entrepreneurs is on the rise in nearly every demographic.

Having the Courage to Overcome Obstacles

No one has every skill it takes to run a successful business. As humans, we all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Courage means moving outside and beyond our areas of strength, and doing those things that are difficult and uncomfortable for us.

Take, for example, a bookkeeper who decides to start her own business. She’s a numbers person, happiest when she’s calculating costs of goods sold and payroll taxes for her clients. But she knows that she needs to build her business, and that means expanding her client base. She joins a networking group that requires her getting up in front of the group and giving a description of her business. It’s terrifying for her, but she does it because she knows she needs to grow her business. And it works – six months into the networking group, and she’s doubled her client base. That’s courage at work.

Courage is an Act of Self-Belief

Courage means believing in yourself and your business, even when obstacles arise and things don’t go your way. It means moving forward, one step at a time, even when it seems everyone and everything is conspiring against you.

The Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz taught us that courage isn’t bestowed upon us from some beneficent being, nor is it necessarily obviously present in us from birth. It’s something we have deep inside that we can call upon when faced with challenges that will see us through to success.

Where did you find the courage to start your small business?

About the Author(s)

Gyawu Mahama

Gyawu Mahama leads U.S. social media and marketing at international specialist insurer Hiscox.

Social Media and Marketing Manager, Hiscox Business Insurance
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