From Arlene: Be Unafraid

From Arlene: Be Unafraid

Leadership | Posted by - October 10, 2016 at 12:00 am

It has taken me a long time to feel good about being an entrepreneur. I used to feel somewhat "less than" the career-minded senior people I would encounter. I mean, come on – they knew where they were going and I was headed into the unknown. They had gone to University to get a job. I had never been. They aspired and had reached the pinnacles of their career. I didn't even see a career: I saw a way to survive, a way to build. And when introduced at cocktail parties or meetings, I always felt they secretly viewed me as a failure because it was clear I was starting my own firm because I couldn't be employed. Which, in fact, and in full disclosure, was true.

Think for a moment: what are you afraid of? For most people, the answer to that question is a mystery. Why? Because they are afraid to even determine what it is!

But lets break it down. Nobody wants to look bad. Nobody wants to fail publicly. Nobody wants to be the first to try something new. Nobody wants to say that the accepted way may be the wrong way. Except, that is, for entrepreneurs. Which is interesting because the world characterizes the choices and decisions made by entrepreneurs as being "risk friendly."

I prefer to think of entrepreneurs as individuals who are comfortable with taking calculated risks. Entrepreneurs are not reckless. They have too much at stake, too much skin in the game. By contrast, we see true recklessness when there's no accountability – when profit turns into a mathematical game, and it's other people's money that's on the line. I think back to what triggered the global financial crisis of 2008.

It's ironic: big business often looks at entrepreneurs as mildly entertaining mini-versions of the real deal which is, of course, big business. But why? Why is an entrepreneur's venture "less than" simply because they dare to do things differently and explore new avenues? Why is bigger better? Innovation, employment, new markets – the list goes on and on for what entrepreneurs do for our world and our economy.

Don't get me wrong. I love businesses of all types – big, small, independent, multi- national. Commerce in any form drives economies and sustains people. There should be no hierarchy of respect in regard to any form of business. Instead, there should be respect for those willing to do what it takes to build good business.

Are entrepreneurs risk friendly?

No, not risk friendly. Unafraid.

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, blog, big, business, different, economy, entrepreneur, explore, failure, friendly, respect, risk, unafraid

June 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Fierce!  I love it! 

Dragan Cvijan
June 20, 2013 at 10:06 pm

What gets in way to ideas is compareson to known and similar to under untacable or

negativ reputation. For second look at it not many I know have or hed time and interest. That I call very scery, becose it gets to attention of dumiest to understen it..

Gil Michel-Garcia
June 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm


It is not that executives from big business and professionals look down on us, it is just that we are normally too small to be of interest to them.

I have lived in both worlds, working in a Wall Street Law Firm handling billion dollar deals for clients, and now growing a small packaged goods company in Montreal.

Although as entrepreneurs we tend to take bigger risks that our professional and big business friends, the rewards in terms of a sense of accomplishment, empowerment, financial independence (eventually - not initially) and life independence, for me at least, are worth it in the end.

I don't think any of your friends and aquaintences are looking down at you now.

Many thanks for all of your support for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Canada.

Kari Williams
June 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

"I prefer to think of entrepreneurs as individuals who are comfortable with taking calculated risks. Entrepreneurs are not reckless. They have too much at stake, too much skin in the game. By contrast, we see true recklessness when there’s no accountability – when profit turns into a mathematical game, and it’s other people’s money that’s on the line". - This is spot on Arlene....  I worked in the car industry then was a "stay at home mom that was never home" for many years due to volunteer work.  My husband worked for a large corporation that promised success and security.  But one begins to realize at some point you have crossed over from being a valued employee to a "corporate clone" that is a number, not a name, and all that counts is bigger profits regardless of the human toll or logic of greater profits.  After 25 years, he just quit one day.  We started fresh.  As a result, he is alive today and we live a much happier, healthier, prosperous live.  We are once again making wise and socially responsible choices for us and are kids.  Not an easy choice, but well worth it!!

Paul St Laurent
June 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm


Pedro Arango
June 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm

"...Innovation, employment, new markets..." As an entrepreneur in a small business I feel very proud of what I do. But it is the small size what limits my reach when I need to be heard. That can be very disappointing and sad.

But then I see the happy and satisfied faces of my customers and that feels me with joy :)

Elaine Leigh
July 4, 2013 at 3:18 am

Fantastic article!!!!  I just purchased a small business and am consistently terrified.  Your blogs and articles somehow make me feel human, thank you.

Patricia Czycun
July 5, 2013 at 10:51 pm

I also have had a taste of both worlds, corporate and small business owner.  I once heard a saying that we are the only people willing to work 100 hrs a week to avoid a 40 hr workweek in a corporation.

Having worked in a corporation where if you had a fantastically cool idea but had to go through twenty layers of approvals just to have it shot down,  I value the freedom to make decisions myself but also value some of the reasons why you can't be reckless.  There is more at's my decision.  Luvin It!

Afke Zonderland
July 12, 2013 at 12:51 am

" Turning from a valued employee to a corporate clone' hit the mark;   Thank you Kari! 

I have been self employed for 30 years. Some of my decisions have made a dent in MY bank account but most have paid off enormously in personal satisfaction  and more than well enough financially. 

Andrea Malick
July 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Thanks for this.

I was sitting next to someone at a seminar for business owners and she shared with me her difficulty finding resources for the emotional or psychological aspects of starting a business.

And yet you so need that positive energy to keep the business momentum going even when you're scared.

Richard Cleary
October 5, 2013 at 9:34 am
Perfect timing. I have just left the corporate world after 35 years to start my own business. Your blog is right on the money. I have felt somewhat "less than" and second guessing where am I going as a result. However I am passionate about what it is I want to do, I believe have a solid business plan & have been surrounding myself with like minded and positive people. The only way now is forward.
Richard Cleary
October 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm
Bang on Arlene. I just stepped away from 35 years in the corporate world to start my own business. It can be daunting at times but very rewarding. Some decisions are good some not so good but they none the less move my business forward. At times I feel like the little guy but then I remember a quote I read. " In the end, people will judge you anyway. Don't live your life impressing others. Live your life impressing yourself."
Lisa Taylor
October 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm
Most people in corporate life are blissfully unaware of the entire small business/entrepreneurial economy while many entrepreneurs don't understand life in a big corporation. The lack of awareness is to the detriment of both groups.

I think language is powerful. When we call people in corporations "drones" we convey a value. When people who leave corporations to become entrepreneurs are called "corporate refugees" it conveys a value. The language we use about each other provides powerful clues to what we think of each other.

Canadians are mainly unaware of just how much of our economy and employment relies on small businesses.

Each of us can ask: "why does it matter that large-corporate Canada doesn't understand the value we entrepreneurs bring or the work that we do."

Don't get me wrong. It matters. The important question is "why." Do we seek recognition? Affirmation? Market access? New partnerships? Innovation testing-grounds?

If each of us focus on addressing the aspect that is personally most meaningful, we will collectively make a lot of progress in raising awareness across the corporate/entrepreneurial divide.

This site is a great place to start.
Joe Wasylyk
October 19, 2016 at 7:46 pm
Arlene, Being Unafraid is a major challenge for the 50+ demographic many of them long-term corporate jobbers with little or no small business or entrepreneurship training. In Canada many older entrepreneurs are forced to work alone without adequate business support from mentors or real workshops. The focus today in Canada is mainly on the younger cohort who like you is being forced to go down the entrepreneurial road because many traditional jobs are disappearing.

I notice that financial advisers today are recommending that retirees take on a part-time job rather than starting a small business as a senior entrepreneur. As a result, seniors are influenced to go job hunting which we all know many of these jobs are rarely meaningful or purpose driven. On the other hand, considering a small business as a second career could provide retirees with new opportunities to go outside the 'pasture land' box. Then with the help of greater courage and self-esteem seniors they will be Unafraid to take on the calculated challenges or risks that they will face on their own entrepreneurial journey.
Dave Hutton
October 6, 2018 at 12:32 pm
Hi Arlene. Firstly, I've been a fan of yours for a long time. I come from the corporate side and started a printing & design company in 2010 at 63 as a solo-preneur. I'm happy to say the company is still operating and I'm it's only employee. I have partnered with some terrific outside, trade-only suppliers who provide me a significant work force and access, through them, to some very expensive print equipment. Unfortunately i've had difficulty in acquiring the right staff that will allow me to work on my business instead of in my business so growth has been limited somewhat because I try to do everything.
One of my fears is bringing someone on board, mentoring and training and then have them leave to become my competitor across the street. How does one prevent that situation from happening?
I am thinking that I would like to bring someone on board that has similar skills and drive but believe that if they have some skin in the game ($$$) they are more likely to bring value and continuation of the business. Is this a fair and reasonable thought, and how do I determine the amount of ($$$s) I should ask?
I'd appreciate your thoughts on next steps.
Keep up with this great site.
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