Interview: Peter Shallard, The Shrink For Entrepreneurs

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For my second interview I’ve chosen Peter Shallard from The Shrink for Entrepreneurs. Peter is a business psychology expert. He used to do clinical therapy, but then found how much easier it was to work with entrepreneurs who tend be more goal-oriented. Since then he has never looked back.

When I first discovered Peter’s site I was very impressed with the wealth of information offered there. His blog posts are Grade-A quality and he also offers a free e-book called “Seek And Destroy: How To Identify Entrepreneurial Obstacles and How To Overcome Them.” (direct PDF download – he doesn’t even make you sign up to his newsletter, although I would recommend you check that out too). I am currently halfway through reading this one and it is not your typical free e-book – there is actually value here. I recommend it to any aspiring businessman.

Peter and I both share an enthusiasm for the human mind and business. We are also both optimistic about the direction many industries are taking online in the digital world, and how this will continue to change the business landscape in the future (more on this in the interview).

I want to thank Peter for providing very detailed and thoughtful responses to all my questions. I really think this is an incredibly informative interview. It’s a lot of reading compared to my typical posts, but it is well worth it. Check it out!

Also, please note that none of the links in this interview are affiliates. I recommend these products and services because I believe they are good and worth the price. I don’t make commission off of any sales.

1. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. But risk-taking can be a fearful endeavor. You have a book out called, “Demystifying Your Fear.” What are the kinds of things it covers, and how can it help individuals be better risk-takers?

I decided to write “Demystify Your Fear” because, after years working as a therapist and coach to entrepreneurs, I’m convinced that Fear is always the last obstacle between an entrepreneur and their business goals.

“Demystify” looks at the two different types of fear – it educates entrepreneurs on how to identify when fear is a useful, appropriate response… and when it isn’t. Fear has a very positive use sometimes. It’s an evolutionary tool that we’re equipped with that pumps the perfect chemical cocktail into our body when we need to fight or run. Fear is great for when you meet a grizzly bear in the woods!

The problem is that entrepreneurs experience the same emotional response that a bear might create… but when they’re contemplating various business activities!

When that happens, an entrepreneur is being subjected to ancient psychological forces trying to make her “fight or fly”… when really, she should be making a pitch, closing a deal or something.

So sometimes fear is a useful tool – a signal from our unconscious mind telling us we need to urgently prepare for something (an encounter with a grizzly?). And in business, sometimes we do need to prepare.

More often though, Fear is an inappropriate response – it pops up and cripples entrepreneurs in situations where there isn’t really anything to “prepare”. When it’s time to just say “screw it – let’s do it!”.

Demystify Your Fear is about conquering that inappropriate, useless fear – including all the modern, insidious manifestations like “the inner critic.”

2. You used to do clinical therapy, but now you only offer counseling to entrepreneurs. How is the mindset of an entrepreneur different from your previous clients?

I began my career working with entrepreneurs by accident – a business owner came along to my practice for help with a phobia! Once he realized that “this psychology stuff is important in business too” he kept coming back to discuss business challenges. Then, he referred his friends!

I discovered a segment of the population more committed to growth and aggressive pursuit of goals than any other. For a therapist or coach of any kind, working with such people is highly rewarding.

To generalize, I’ve found that entrepreneurs are faster moving, more open to radical change and far more pragmatic than most “civilians”. This makes for a fast-paced consulting relationship where smart ideas and realizations get acted on (and produce results) fast.

Most entrepreneurs also realize that their financial results are directly correlated to their mental state and performance, so in many ways the success of consulting with entrepreneurs is empirically measurable. I know that if I’m doing a great job with a client, their companies profit/loss statements will reflect that.

3. You’re from New Zealand. In a nutshell, how is the economy doing there? Are they being hit by this worldwide recession as hard as other nations like in Europe and the United States?

I’m from New Zealand but based in Sydney Australia. Australia currently seems to be impervious to the GFC (global financial crisis) – business is booming and the Aussie dollar, at the time of this interview, is cents away from parity with the US.

Meanwhile, across the Tasman Sea in my home country, things are not going so well. Overall, I think that the antipodes have remained reasonably insulated from European and US financial crisis. New Zealand has definitely slowed down since 2008, but so far remains relatively unscathed compared to some European nations of similar size.

One concern that I’d like NZ entrepreneurs to address is the extent of international ownership of New Zealand commercial and real assets. While investment dollars pour into the country from overseas, New Zealanders face the prospect of becoming tenants in their own country and businesses. This means that a vast proportion of consumer spending in NZ ends up in the pockets of international organizations operating from abroad. Meanwhile, much of NZ’s top young talent continues to leave the country for greener pastures.

All in all, I consider it a matter of personal and national priority to focus on educating the NZ public to reduce consumer debt while increasing investment in NZ owned business, ultimately to bring back the talented New Zealand workforce currently living and working abroad.

4. How is the internet changing the business landscape? Is there too much false hope in making money online?

Like anything that is new and exciting, the internet is also misunderstood. The snake-oil salespeople selling fast-fortunes through “online business” are preying on the ignorance of a public that is still learning and understanding the internet.

I believe that in the next five to ten years, we will see a dramatic reduction in the “make $$$ without any work, instantly” type offers. This will happen as the public becomes more aware about the nature of the internet and how commerce works online.

Aside from the scammers, the internet is certainly the single most significant evolutionary step in business that this generation has seen (and probably will see)…. and the best part? It’s all just getting started!

The internet is and will continue to impact business in ways more numerous to list here. Personally, I knew that “internet business” was for me, the moment I read Chris Anderson’s views of “The Long Tail”.

For the first time in history, it’s now possible for tiny businesses to connect with and grow and audience of rabid, passionate fans. The internet facilitates this communication and connection. This is exciting news for those contemplating the step (leap) into entrepreneurialism – never before has it been easier to build a business doing what you love!

But keep in mind – I said “easier”… not easy. One of the things I’ve noticed is that, despite all the new shininess of the internet and social media, the old commercial realities stay the same. Smart ideas, relentless action-taking and hard work are just some of the old school “must-have” requirements that’ll never change.

5. Who are some of your favorite business leaders today?

I’ve always struggled to answer these questions without the obvious cliches…

Steve Jobs

Apple seem to be going from strength to strength. Not only am I a crazy mac-fan, I also enjoy watching in awe as Steve and his people build empires and out-fox enormous, successful competitors. The best part is that every time they win, so does the consumer! The ability to interact with internet through mobile devices (iphones etc) is something we all seem to take for granted now… but it was just a few years ago that must of us could never even dream of posting videos on the fly to Youtube and tweeting to hundreds of followers while walking down the street.

Apple has captured the attention of so many of us because they’re hitting home-run after home-run of innovation. Pumping out such remarkable stuff, so consistently, is what puts Steve at the top of my business-hero list.

Richard Branson

Richard’s diversity of attention simply blows me away. What is it that makes a billionaire leap up from his hammock on Necker Island and think: “Screw the airlines, music label and banking… I want to start a mobile phone company!!”

His ongoing accomplishments with the Virgin brand would seem like a scatter-gun of barely controlled chaos… if it weren’t for the fact that he seems to hit home-runs far more often that most would believe possible. I’m intrigued by the mind behind Virgin.

6. If you had the capital to start any business you wanted to, what would it be?

I would explore online education, in a big way. I think that the entrepreneur who figures out how to overcome the current limitations to online education solutions is going to be the next tech-billionaire.

Larry Ellison has famously voiced his belief that education online will dwarf the internet as we know it today. I think we’re going to see a radical shake-up of the tertiary education system and an inevitable super-ceding of old school education delivery by a new, internet based *sometime*.

I would love to be the person to find that something. Angel investors can contact me at my blog. 😉

Online education is definitely something that I am excited about too. I have taken some online courses from independent, unaccredited organizations, but the value I have received in return has been unfathomable. The Mises Academy in particular, which teaches free market economics, has a great set-up right now with teaching students from all over the world. They use DimDim for online lectures and “office hours,” and they also include forums and discussion boards. They are just as valuable as many of the college classes I’ve taken off-line, but they are offered at a fraction of the price. I have a feeling online education in the future has a lot to learn from the Mises Academy.

I want to thank Peter Shallard again for this wonderful interview. I urge you all to check out The Shrink for Entrepreneurs, poke around through his blog, check out his free e-book, and also look into “Demystify Your Fear,” especially if you are a businessman (or woman) who hasn’t quite made that leap into the “entrepreneurial unknown.”


  • What is the most impressive thing you learned from Peter’s answers?
  • Why is the entrepreneur so important in today’s economy?
  • Can anyone be an entrepreneur?
  • Who would you like to see interviewed next?

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