I love this Henry Ford quote: “If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” It goes straight to the heart of our belief in our ability to be successful. It’s this limiting self-belief, or lack of confidence, that I see hold back too many very able business owners. So I wondered – are limiting beliefs getting in the way of your business success?
Have you heard people talking about how they ‘get in their own way?’ What they’re really talking about is their limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs are the stories we tell ourselves to keep ourselves small. It’s far too late for me to leave my job and start a business. I don’t have enough business experience. I’m a creative and creatives can’t make real money. I don’t know enough about running a business…
What’s getting in the way of your business success?
Limiting beliefs are curious creatures. The bigger they are, the harder it is for us to see them. And if we can’t see them, then we can’t fix them. They’re the proverbial elephant in the room. So let’s see if we can shine a light on them.
Get a piece of paper and jot down all the words and phrases that pop into your head when you think about what’s getting in the way of your business success. Try not to filter your thoughts. Simply note down everything that comes to mind without editing or deleting anything. Keep going for at least 5 minutes, until you cannot come up with anything else.
Once you’ve completed your list of all the stories you’ve been telling yourself about why you can’t be successful, go back through it, and ask yourself 3 questions:
- Do I believe it is possible to achieve this? Not just by me, but by anybody?
- Do I have the ability to do it?
- Do I believe I deserve to achieve this?
If you answer ‘no’ to any of the questions, what would have to be different in order for you to answer ‘yes’?
Let’s take a common limiting belief, lack of experience, and ask yourself these three questions.
Question 1: With my level of experience, is it possible to run a successful business?
The answer is almost certainly ‘yes’. Every business owner starts with a seed of an idea which they nurture into fruition. But most entrepreneurs start out with little business experience. Let’s take the example of Chrissie Rucker who founded The White Company.
Chrissie Rucker started The White Company during the recession of the mid-1990s. A fashion journalist by profession, her skills proved invaluable in the early days as she knew how to plan a shoot, write copy and create a consistent brand message. Once she’d completed her market research and discovered that 50% of linens sold in the UK were in fact white, Chrissie put together a 12-page mail order catalogue, cobbled together a mailing list of 800 people (that included her mother and her mother’s friends) and distributed a press release to every journalist she knew.
Chrissie ran out of cash after the first week. But she won £5,000 in a business competition and the Financial Times picked up her story thanks to a combination of hard work, determination and good luck. The phone lines went crazy, and within just three days Chrissie had added another 1,000 names and addresses to her mailing list.
Fast forward 22 years, and the brand now turns over £180 million, employs 1300 staff, including 56 stores here in the UK, 13 overseas franchise outlets, and ha UK and US e-commerce websites. Chrissie will shortly launch her first US store in New York. And the company is forecast to turnover £500 million in the next 5 years. All from sending out one single mail order catalogue in 1994.
Question 2: Do I have the ability to run a successful business?
This is an interesting question. We know what our abilities are right now. But as to knowing what we’re capable of in the future, that’s a speculative question. We don’t know whether the skills we have right now will be sufficient in the future. The likelihood is that they won’t be but we shouldn’t allow this to get in the way of our business success.
Let’s go back to my example of Chrissie Rucker. There is no way Chrissie knew whether or not she had the ability to run a successful business when she was starting out. She didn’t have a crystal ball that could foresee the future! But she did the first few things right. She did her market research and established there was a gap in the market. She leveraged the skills she’d honed as a fashion journalist effectively. And she worked incredibly hard to make her business a success. As her business grew, Chrissie made a point of surrounding herself with the best people possible and built a team who complimented her skill set. She let her team get on with their job, whilst she remained custodian of the brand. And she went on training courses to fill in gaps in her own knowledge e.g. learning the art of delegation to master the skills necessary to run a productive and happy team.
Over to you? When it comes to running your business, what skills, experience and attributes do you have going for you? What are you not so great at when it comes to running a business? Is this a barrier right now, or a potential problem in the future? If this is a barrier right now, what immediate steps can you take to remove, or at least minimise it?
Question 3: Do I believe I deserve success?
This final question really goes to the heart of the issue. Let’s dig deeper. Get out your pen and paper again, and complete the following sentence:
I don’t deserve success because….
Answer this question in a ‘flow of consciousness’ style without stopping or lifting your pen from the paper. Give yourself at least 5 minutes to see what beliefs you uncover.
Now go and make a cup of coffee, and come back to your list. Ask yourself whether any of what you’ve written is actually true? Can you find an example that disproves each of the reasons why you believe you don’t deserve success? Write these down. When we look at our limiting beliefs in the cold light of day, it’s much easier to see whether they hold up to scrutiny or not. If your beliefs don’t make sense, start to uproot them, as if they were a weed. If you garden, you’ll know some weeds can be persistent, returning when you think you’ve dug them out. Be prepared to have to root them out again.
Get out your pen and paper once again, and complete the following sentence:
I deserve success because….
List out all the reasons why you serve success. Think about how your family, friends and business colleagues would respond if they were asked this question. Put your list somewhere where you can find it easily. Any time you notice yourself thinking a limiting belief, refer back to your list of reasons why you deserve success, and reframe that thought.
Deep seated limiting beliefs don’t change overnight. But shining a light on them – and bringing them from our unconscious, where they’ve been buried away, into consciousness is a good first step. Because it’s by bringing self-limiting beliefs into consciousness that we can start to break each belief down, one by one, and change our perception.
Because it’s been recognised as one of the 10 most significant entrepreneurial traits*, cultivating self-confidence is one of the best things we can do for our business. Take steps to become your own best cheerleader. Make sure you have a list of people you can call on to support you, believe in you and see the best in you – and who will give you a kick up the backside when some tough love is what’s needed. And make sure that limiting beliefs and lack of confidence aren’t getting in the way of your business success.
* Global research and consulting firm Gallup studied more than 4,000 founders over a 5 year period as part of a study into entrepreneurial traits. The results of this study were turned into an online assessment tool, the Entrepreneurial Strengthfinder assessment. If you haven’t already taken the test, I highly recommend you do. It’s only $12.
Join The Conversation
Question: What’s been getting in the way of your business success? I love hearing from you so please do let me know in the comment box below.
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- 7 Business Lessons From The White Company
- Business Focus: The Truth About Business Success
- Why Taking Risks In Business Comes With Great Rewards
Prior to becoming a business consultant and coach, I spent 8 years in the trenches as a CEO having trained at Cranfield School of Management, the UK’s leading business school. With experience in business planning, financial management, risk management, building strategic partnerships, product development, marketing (including PR) plus leading and developing staff teams of up to 150 people, there’s very little I haven’t had to deal with or experienced.
You can find out more about working with me HERE. Or book a call to arrange an informal chat over coffee. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of how our services would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.
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