Famous Business Leaders Offer Their Advice About Fear

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Posted: June 24, 2011 | Professional Development

True business leaders don’t let fear impede their success.

A little fear is a great motivator that can push people (B2B marketers included) and businesses to achieve greatness. But too much fear and we’re left petrified. We become afraid of taking the first step, halting future momentum.

Some of the scariest aspects of today’s ever-evolving B2B marketing world are nearly enough to make you want to hide under your desk rather than try anything different. Technologies like smart phones and social media have further complicated an already intricate system of attracting consumers and capturing sales. And just as daunting as learning how to integrate these channels into your mix is emerging legislation. New laws, such as the new EU privacy laws, can be unnerving for their potential to incur non-compliance fines, data breach lawsuits and other damages.

But hiding from these and other “scary” developments won’t make them go away. Facing them, on the other hand, can have a positive impact on your future success.

Business leaders of yesterday and today didn’t let fear stop them from becoming innovators. During the Great Depression, brand names and products that are now known throughout the world were bravely making their start during uncertain times, such as Hewlett-Packard and Revlon Cosmetics.

Leading companies established during or before black Friday resisted typical knee-jerk reactions to reduce their marketing budgets. Despite numerous hardships these companies faced, today they have an edge over their rivals. Think of the great success Kellogg’s Company has achieved over rival Post Cereal.

What do famous business leaders who have run these and other successful companies, past and present, have to say about fear? Read on to find out.

Fear Can’t Hurt You

“The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power.” ~ Oprah Winfrey, Producer, Publisher and Philanthropist

The most basic thing to know about fear is that it can’t hurt you – unless it prevents you from acting! Don’t stand on the sidelines afraid to dip your toes into new marketing techniques while your competitors are diving headfirst into things like mobile web, interactive, social media, and content marketing. If everyone else seems to be floating along swimmingly while you’re still contemplating your next move, try to understand and put into perspective what you are really worried about.

Resist Negativity

“Don’t be beaten down by naysayers. Don’t let the odds scare you from even trying.” ~ Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee

In the 1940s, IBM Chairman Thomas Watson said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Fred Smith, who eventually founded Federal Express Corp. (FedEx), was told that his paper describing a reliable overnight delivery service was “infeasible;” he received a C from a Yale University management professor for the idea. And Decca Recording Company, when it rejected a new band called The Beatles in 1962, stated that it believed guitar music was on the way out. Clearly these so-called experts were mistaken. There is a distinct possibility that your critics are wrong, too.

Don’t Fear Failure

“Take risks. Ask big questions. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; if you don’t make mistakes, you’re not reaching far enough.” ~ David Packard, Co-Founder of Hewlett-Packard

With great risk comes great rewards – and big failures. Sometimes marketing mistakes teach lessons that might not have been learned otherwise, such as the error in judgment Skittles made when they basically gave control of their website to anyone with a Twitter account who tweeted their name.

Other times seemingly simple solutions can turn into grand successes, like when Ford handed over several of its Fiesta model cars to 20-somethings, with the stipulation that they share their experiences via social media. Truthfully, people and businesses can only reach their goals by taking some chances. Attempting something new can be risky, but businesses gain nothing from not trying.

Change with the Times

“Technology is always evolving, and companies…can’t be afraid to take advantage of change.” ~ Eric Schmidt, Current Executive Chairman and Former CEO of Google.

Today we hold high-definition televisions and super-computers in the palms of our hands. Messages can instantly be transmitted to thousands, even millions of loyal consumers world-wide via social media networks

With new content-sharing strategies, companies now reveal secrets that they never used to divulge in order to gain more trust from customers. With all the advances in technology over the last decade, online B2B marketing techniques developed five years ago have already evolved significantly, never mind traditional methods that have been around for 100 years. The times they are a-changing, and your marketing style should too, even if your product doesn’t.

Don’t Hesitate to Take Action

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie, Founder of Dale Carnegie Training courses in salesmanship and corporate training

When pursuing new marketing techniques like mobile web and B2B social media, absolutely take the time to do research, ask questions, and explore your options. Learn everything you can – but don’t expect available data to give you all the answers. Eventually you will have to make your own decisions on which new marketing tactics to pursue. After the risks have been calculated and your plans are in place, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger. You can always change your marketing mix if it doesn’t work, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Accomplish Your Goals

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” ~ Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company

You were afraid, but you persisted. The possibility of failure loomed, but you ignored your critics and tried anyway. Then you achieved successful results! Congratulations! Aren’t you glad you didn’t allow your fears to dictate your actions? Oprah would be so proud.

Don’t forget what you learned here. The next time you’re afraid to try something new, take the time to read this article again. You never know – someday we may be writing about how you faced your fears and achieved greatness!

Share your favorite quote about overcoming fear. We all will benefit from your experience.

Note: All photos sourced from Wikipedia.

Maria specializes in Inbound Marketing for Marketo, leading efforts in adoption of social media channels for brand awareness and demand generation. She has worked in marketing for over ten years, and specifically in online marketing including social media, search marketing, and lead generation and nurturing for the past six.

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