The buck stops here: Why fear is a powerful motivator for entrepreneurs

14th April 2021

By Guy Rigby

There’s a challenge to becoming an entrepreneur that very few people talk about, and that’s fear. The idea of starting something that might fail, letting down not just yourself but often your family. The fear of the unknown and doing something you have never done before. The fear of knowing the buck – quite literally – stops with you.

For most entrepreneurs, fear is a powerful motivator. Combined with vision, self-belief and sheer determination, it is a key driver that plays a big part in supporting that most essential entrepreneurial trait to “never, ever give up”. Having started my own businesses and worked with entrepreneurs most of my working life, I have seen and experienced most of these things first-hand.

As I consider my next venture, or perhaps adventure, I am experiencing all these emotions, but also an entirely different kind of fear. I am taking on a challenge and a level of personal risk that would have been daunting at any time in my life, let alone at the tender age of 68. But that is sort of the point.

Have I got your attention? Well, I will be setting off from the Canaries this December to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic. As part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, I expect (hope!) to arrive in Antigua sometime in February 2022. In doing so, I and my fellow crew member, David Murray, with a combined age of 124, are aiming to become the oldest pair ever to row any ocean.

What’s our why? We hope that our 24-foot ocean rowing boat, Lily, also known as “The Entrepreneur Ship” for the purposes of our challenge, will become a beacon for social mobility, inclusion and the levelling up agenda, raising money for UnLtd, a charity that finds, funds and supports social entrepreneurs – people who deploy their risk-taking and business skills to help change the world for the better.

After a year in which we have seen so many examples of human sacrifice, decency, kindness and communities working together for good, now seems a perfect time to help encourage more people to do so through business.

But it is not without its risks. Looking at the experiences of previous competitors, we fully expect to capsize, perhaps several times. In recent times, Marlin have become a particular problem, with boats being “speared” by their long spikes (and, in one very recent instance, narrowly missing a sleeping crew member). Another boat had one of its oars bitten in half by a shark. Once a week, we will need to go over the side into a five-mile-deep ocean to clean the bottom of the hull. Hopefully, there won’t be any predators around when we do! All of this ignores the physical challenge of rowing 3,000 miles, two hours on and two hours off, seven days a week, as well as the mental one of being out there, just the two of us, for so long.

We hope that our entrepreneurial backgrounds and experience, together with meticulous preparation and a good dose of luck, will help see us through. Three hundred and fifty hours of on-the-water training between now and when we set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 12 should also help. At the end of the day, the thought of how we will feel when we finally arrive at Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua who knows how many weeks later is something that will not only keep us going, but also give us that sense of achievement and purpose that, secretly – along with fear – drives all great entrepreneurs.

Guy Rigby, Crew Member, The Entrepreneur Ship.