Overcoming the Fear of Entrepreneurial Failure

Entrepreneurial failure has long been a major barrier to talented and experienced individuals taking the leap from long time employee to business owner. The perceived risk may often simply be to big, with financial and family commitments considered, many a new idea is often suppressed even before it has the opportunity to see the light. Banks and small business investors today see the business plan as a major move forward in ensuring the risk is reduced as the entrepreneur gets to thin and work through the various issues prior to the business starting. Still entrepreneurs feel that more can be done to address this issue.

Young Business for South Africa (YBSA) is helping young entrepreneurs to confront their fear of failure. On 17 March 2011, YBSA is hosting a "Fail Fast, Fail Forward: How failure makes successful entrepreneurs" at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Illovo, Johannesburg.

Telana Simpson, YBSA Director and entrepreneur, will be chairing a panel of experts gathered to dispel the myths around failing in entrepreneurship, and to start changing the mindsets of our young leaders towards failure.

Sitting on the panel are Yashivan Govender of FirstStep.me (Entrepreneur and author of the 'Fun Side of Being Serious'), Danny Tuckwood of MetaCo (professional Leadership & Entrepreneur Coach), Allon Raiz of Raizcorp (founder and CEO of Raizcorp, the only privately-held, unfunded, profitable business incubator on the African continent), Dr Marius Pretorius (Associate Professor of Strategy, Leadership and Turnaround at the University of Pretoria). The panel will discuss what attitudes would be more beneficial for encouraging entrepreneurs and those who support them, to develop business in our country.

The event is free to all YBSA members and R100 for non-members at the door (membership enquiries can be directed to admin@ybsa.org.za). Please note that booking is essential as the seats are limited.

Attitudes and Perceptions about Entrepreneurship

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Global Report 2010 states that "if the economy in general has positive attitudes toward entrepreneurship, this will generate cultural support, financial resources, networking benefits and various other forms of assistance to current and potential entrepreneurs." Their investigation reveals that in South Africa, 29% of respondents have a fear of failure and only 16.7% have entrepreneurial intentions.

In the report South Africa and a further 23 other countries are classed as efficiency driven economies. When it came to indicators of attitude, GEM noted that in SA 40.9% of respondents' perceived opportunities in the entrepreneurial arena, and that South African's were 2.7% less fearful of failure than the un-weighted average. 77.5% of people surveyed thought entrepreneurship was a good career choice, yet only 16.7% of respondents had entrepreneurial intentions, 6.5% below the un-weighted average for this category.

With perceptions indicating that a high status is given to successful entrepreneurs and that there is a great emphasis placed on entrepreneurial endeavours in the media, why are our entrepreneurs still battling to find support?

Some of the most influential people of our time include; Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Donald Trump. They all failed to some degree before they got their formulas right and achieved the heights of success they enjoy today. Why is it in South Africa we are still battling to see failure in a positive light, as a learning device instead of something of which we should be ashamed?

Endeavour's white paper on "The State of Entrepreneurship in SA" in 2009, highlights the concern that there is a low tolerance for entrepreneurial failure in South Africa. "People disassociate themselves from them, banks shut them down and the press demonises them" (pg.11). Entrepreneurial failure is an experience that financers in other parts of the world look for in entrepreneurs that they consider funding. This culture in South Africa of not supporting entrepreneurs who have failed needs to be confronted if we are to create an environment conducive to fostering more entrepreneurial activity.


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