Fear Factor

What are you afraid of as a business owner?

When I started to work on this topic, a wealth of resources opened up, along with an abundance of shop owners who contributed to this article. The evolution was exciting, and I thank everyone.

Fear at work is normal. It exists in good times and bad times. How you overcome it, cope with it and use it to your advantage is up to you. There’s an old saying that goes, “Fear is a great motivator.” But for most, it feels more “stuck” than forward motion. Fear as a motivator can lead to some poor choices and ultimately escalates. Success as a motivator is much more effective and helps you create goals, plans, achievements and yes, celebration.

What is fear?


Fear is often defined as False Evidence Appearing Real. There are some straightforward steps you can take that will help you steer through fear.

The first step in defining whether it is real or not is to recognize it, acknowledge it, and accept that change is at the heart of feeling fearful. Write down your fears so you can look at them objectively and stop dwelling on them. The dwelling is what makes you feel stuck. Once you have a list, you can cross off what is not in your control, then jot down a quick plan next to each one you feel is real and valid. Creating a hit list with some potential decisions can move you past the angst.

The second step is to accept that you are feeling fearful and create a resource list of who to share these feelings with. It can be a huge relief to know you are not alone. The success of ASA chapters, 20 Groups, Round Tables, and management consultants is proof that you need that support and problem-solving.

The third step takes some real discipline and self-questioning. Be cognizant that fear can be a battle with yourself. If you let your fears spill out at work, the negative effects just create more fear. Set a time to work through your worries. A daily discipline of this will change your attitude. Ask yourself how you have navigated through change in the past. Are you persistent and patient or are you reactive? Are you taking care of yourself so you can take care of others? Are you or can you be flexible? Be honest. These questions are just for you.

Lastly, feel the fear and do it anyway. You can conquer almost any fear if you make up your mind to do so. Fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in your mind. You know your value. A great tool is to look at where you started in your business and where you are today. Every time you embrace your fears it makes them easier to deal with. The fear will run away the more you chase it!

Everyday fears as an owner

As a shop owner, you deal with regular fears every day … a car can fall off the lift, a tech can make an expensive blunder and then try to cover it up, a lug nut isn’t tightened, a tool is left under the hood. You know the list. There are weather worries, facility worries and customer worries.

Jim Maddox, owner of Jim’s Auto, an ASA member-shop in
Albuquerque, N.M., says an inherent fear that he faces has to do with business survival. “Fear factor in any business today is being in business tomorrow. Every day is a fight, can I make another round? Will tomorrow be better than today? The optimist in me says it will be, the pessimist in me says why should I?

“Technology is the heavyweight fight every day, one more new device to buy, one more device to learn. The other is the Internet: one more customer to convince that the ‘Google Mechanic’ is wrong and I am the one who is repairing their car, and no you can not supply your own Amazon or ebay parts even if they are here by tomorrow.”

Don’t let fear prevent success

However, the fears that get in the way of being successful shop owners look more like management, money and personnel issues. The shop owners who I spoke to listed the following as the Top 6 Fears:

• Keeping up with new technology, training and certifications.
• Expanding the business with a new facility or work with the limitations of the one you have.
• Firing a good tech who produces good work, but is not a team player and creates friction in the shop.
• Buying new equipment when the economy feels unstable.
• Choosing to specialize because doing “general repair” is becoming too costly; there is fear about losing or changing your customer base.
• Believing that an online review is truth rather than opinion shared by a customer.

Online reviews can be a tremendous fear for many, says Donny Seyfer of Seyfer Automotive, Wheat Ridge, Colo.

“My biggest fear is when a customer leaves a bad review of the business online, particularly where I cannot respond. If you actually failed a customer, that is one thing but when you have someone who, is just malicious and inaccurate, that is what I really hate. I have had two (reviews like that). One on Google and one on Facebook. Both were so ridiculous that I guess potential customers can see that, but you never know,” says Seyfer.

Lara Galinsky wrote in her Harvard Business Review article on fear, Fear Means Go! She simply states that in business the fear is often: I am afraid I am not smart enough, experienced enough or capable of making a real difference in the world. To relieve the anxiety, ask the fundamental question, “Is this a healthy fear that I need to pay attention to, or is this a fear rooted in secret self-doubt?”

In between the fear and the unknown there is always a little certainty. If you make two circles representing those factors, where the circles interact or intersect is the area of certainty. It is an easy graph to make. It is the old Venn Diagram.

So, as David Doremus always said, “Put on your confidence boots and pull them right up. Stand tall, believe in yourself, and remember you possess the inherent trait of courage. And courage can lead you through almost anything.

Here’s to moving through fear and moving into freedom!

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of management articles contributed to AutoInc. by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org. AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.

Things to remember about fear…

• If you can’t fix it, it is not your problem.
• Fear is like a compass, it tells you where you need to go.
• Fear can merely be a battle with ourselves.