After a hectic but fun Saturday morning of speaking on a Lead Change panel and schlepping my son to baseball practice and art lessons, Sebastian and I decided to try out the newish Ethiopian restaurant for lunch.
“Every man, through fear, mugs his aspiration a dozen times a day.”~ Brendan Francis
The place wasn’t crowded and the engaging owner did the cooking, waiting, and busing himself. The food was amazing. I asked how long he had been in business (a year), and admitted that I had never realized the place was there. We were politely interrupted by a woman asking to see the dessert menu.
“Oh no, we don’t carry desserts. I fear not enough people will want them. Once we really get things going, I’ll feel confident to expand the menu.”
As he came back to our table,Sebastian 8-years old, apparently now my Chief Marketing Officer, offered:
“You know, I think my mommy might really be able to help you with your business (I’m now searching for a menu to duck behind). She knows a lot about leadership and making money. You see she…”
The fantastic chef shared his story: “I’m a really good cook. My friends all told me I should open a restaurant. I’m taking a cautious approach. I know this location is not ideal (it’s really tucked away), but I didn’t want to invest much in location, until I knew for sure it would be a success. I want to attract a crowd, but it’s hard.”
He must have seen me glance around (I’ve never been accused of having a poker face).
“Yeah, I didn’t want to invest too much in decor to start either. Same philosophy. Better to play it safe, it might not work out. Once I have more customers, I’ll make the place more attractive. I have a vision.”
I had already picked up a take-out menu, because I couldn’t imagine convincing my husband this was a great place for romantic dining so I asked, “have you ever considered letting your customers bring their own wine at dinner?” (several really successful BYOBs are within a 5 mile radius) in similar rustic locations.
“Oh no. The insurance would be too much, you know and there’s the fear that a fight could break out.”
Okay, I don’t know about you, but the last fear on my mind when I plan for an evening of romantic ethnic dining (in a Suburban area) is a brawl. His fears were driving his business plan. A coat of paint, some sorbet in the freezer it wouldn’t take much. What was he really afraid of?
When Fear Takes Control
Fear based thinking happens in big business too:
- “Let’s be like Zappos and truly empower our customer service reps to do what’s right for the customer. BUT if they need to give a credit over ten bucks they need to bring in a supervisor.”
- “Forbes and Fast Company have great ideas about leadership. Joe has fantastic business results, and everyone wants to work for him, but, his approach is still unconventional for our culture. Not sure he’ll play that well in the board room, better promote the guy that leads like us.”
- “Sure access to social media at work would help our employees promote our company, BUT what if they say something stupid?”
- “I have a great idea, but what if my boss hates it? Better to lay low and do what she thinks is best.”
Don’t let fear stop your greatness. We need your creative cooking in our neck of the woods.