Business Advice welcomes new contributor Joseph Valente, founder of ImpraGas and 2015 winner of The Apprentice, who writes on the importance of a risk-taking outlook as an entrepreneur.
What separates a successful entrepreneur from the one who struggles? Is it a great business idea? Or the right connections? Or maybe the amount of startup capital each raises?
None of that applies. In fact, most business owners over the age of 40 say they regret not taking more risks when they were younger—that they can pinpoint times when they should have taken the leap, and can easily see now how that would have paid off.
We know about opportunity, and how it doesn’t just show up. You’ve got to go after it. What many aspiring business owners don’t understand is that it’s not about trotting after opportunity down a scenic, paved avenue.
Sometimes, it’s about navigating a treacherous path, sight unseen…or about jumping off that cliff, trusting that the parachute you so painstakingly packed will open.
The benefits that come along with risk-taking are plentiful, and they extend farther than most realise.
For instance, risk-taking sets you apart from the competition.
Let’s face it: everyone, including your toughest competitors, experience fear and doubt. What sets the winners apart is the courage to stare that fear in the face and move forward in spite of it.
Another advantage of risk-taking is the positive attention you’ll receive from potential team members, your target customers, investors and other people who see the value in someone who takes the risks that others back away from.
And that fear you’re feeling right now? Wondering if the risk you’re about to take will be profitable… or if you’ll wind up flat on your face? There’s only one way to alleviate that fear: Take the risk.
There’s an adrenaline rush that comes with risk-taking, and it’s the same rush that comes from riding a roller coaster or jumping out of a plane. It’s terrifying at first, but after it’s been done, the thrill is incomparable. Every time you take a risk, the fear will be diminished and your success compounded.
I should clarify something: The best kind of risk-taking is calculated risk-taking. I would never recommend you take any sort of leap without knowing your numbers and conducting research. That means fully understanding your target market and their needs, your investors and their expectations, your own goals and what’s necessary for achieving them…all so that when you do face that fear and take the risk, you’ll know that even if it doesn’t work out, it was a step in the right direction.
How can I know that? Because as humans, the same thing that causes fear causes us to overestimate the probability of something going wrong, and to exaggerate the potential negative effects of failure.
Remember, this is all that little voice in your head trying to keep you in your comfort zone. What it’s not telling you is that even if you do fail, you’ll be farther ahead than if you never took that risk at all.
Why? Because you will have learned; and you’ll be smack-dab in the middle of a new path to success. Remember, two steps forward and one step back still puts you farther ahead than where you started.
So go ahead, take that first assessed risk. Tell yourself that the fear you’re feeling is only your ego trying to keep you inside your comfort zone—where nothing productive happens. Tell yourself it’s really just excitement for the rush that comes with risk-taking, as well as your anticipation for all the good things that will result.
Success is not possible without risk, and nowhere is that more true than in business.
By knowing your industry inside and out, and understanding your business’s position in the market, as well as your competitions’ strengths, weaknesses and strategies, you can take calculated risks that will pay off.
Your personal and professional goals are just part of how you should be choosing the risks you’ll take as an entrepreneur. Add support, mentoring and expert advice, and the risks you take won’t be all that risky—particularly when you consider the rewards.
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