How to Make Fear Work for Your BusinessRamon Ray
Nicole McCullum is brave — the kind of brave that can only come from identifying your fear and then besting it in single combat.
In a fast-moving industry rife with competition, Nicole has managed to stake her claim as the founder of Captivate Designs, an SEO and web design company that serves clients all over the world. Her bread and butter is working with small business owners to attract more leads, earn clients and generally excel on the Internet. Nicole’s business smarts have been featured on such websites as Forbes, Bloomberg, and Business2Community.
My interview with Nicole was instructive in the same way FDR’s famous first inaugural address was instructive. It distilled a handful of common distractions and impediments down to one simple message. Here is your fear and here is how to put it to work for you.
The Only Thing You Have to Fear
Starting a business is probably the quickest way to learn what fear really looks like — and Nicole got her education started early.
She was just 24 when she started her first business, specializing in real estate law education. It seemed at the time that her path forward was a clear one, until doubt crept in, along with an opportunity:
“So, I was suddenly out of a job, and, at that time, the real estate market was hot. So, I had decided I’m going to get into real estate. I went to take a real estate class, and it was absolutely horrible. I thought, ‘I could do this better.’”
But starting a business is quite a bit more difficult than Nicole had anticipated. It was more complex, she said, than merely building a website and buying ads. She was soon educating herself on the finer points of Google AdWords, analytics, and web design. She managed to fill her classrooms after putting in a lot of blood, sweat and tears but eventually had to walk away from it to bring a little more life into the work-life balance.
She had realized something really important. Building a business from the ground up requires a mastery not just of a particular set of skills, but also a mastery of one’s fears. Captivate Designs was born from that lesson, and Nicole has never looked back.
Nicole had been feeling she was in over her head with growing her business and keeping it thriving and had to take a big step backward. But after she confronted her fears, she managed to put them to work in a brand-new pursuit: Leveraging the skills she’d learned to build an entirely different kind of business.[Tweet “Grab the bull by the horns! Learn how to make fear work for you, not against you in #business.”]
Is a Fear of Failure
It’s at this point in Nicole’s story that the word pivot rears its head — and pivot she did. After changing directions from real estate to SEO and web design, Nicole realized with nothing ventured she was risking neither failure nor success — and she decided to do something about it.
Nicole ended up courting two companies that had been featured in the Inc. 5000 — one with $60 million per year in revenue and one with $20 million — and earned them both as clients. She had learned from her false starts what it took to look professional to an established audience, and that newfound confidence helped her win her first big clients.
And, naturally, the learning curve is still there — even if it looks a little less intense than it once did. Nicole was kind enough to share some of the things she’d learned along the way:
“One of the things I’ve learned is also to delegate, but delegating also comes with its own set of challenges, especially when you’re a small business owner. No matter if you delegate, people still need you to sign off on things and to, you know, it’s your business, it’s your product, and you want to make sure that what’s going out there is exactly what you want. So it can be a challenge.”
Patience and Resilience
But arguably the biggest takeaway here is Nicole’s resilience and persistence — a skill she holds in high regard given her recent history:
“So, I think that one of my core strengths is that I am a very persistent person. I don’t give up; I’m not afraid to act. A lot of people are afraid to act. And I just find a way.”
What she’s talking about here is something many of us spend a lifetime pursuing — our calling. Nicole, from the very beginning, felt she had something significant and worthwhile to offer the world. She didn’t know for sure what it was, or what it would take to discover and nurture it, but she never gave up.
And through the false starts and the early mistakes, she kept her eyes on that goal alone. Whatever else may come along the way — pitching to prospective business partners, making sure your business is certified and building your client base — success requires nothing less than maintaining belief in yourself.
Committing to a course of action and seeing it through, according to Nicole, is the simplest way to put fear in its place. Win, lose or draw, you’ll get through all of the tough times — and you’ll be stronger when you come out the other side.
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