All business owners reach out at some time or another for what is perceived as the “hidden secrets to success” that they think others possess. I am not of course referring to technical and professional proficiency. The likelihood that academic, and experienced industry experts do possess business truths that will help is real and we should continue to explore those sources of knowledge.
But a question that has nagged me over many years now – Through multiple degrees, short courses and reading thousands of books – is “Who taught the teacher, – who taught the first person?” Or perhaps in a slightly more direct way – “How did they think of that?”
One answer that I outline now has been gained from listening and watching the behavior of very successful business owners and very successful sporting champions. And that is, every business person has a number of stories to tell of successful or positive outcomes.
That success probably occurred early on in the life of their business; it didn’t come from an alleged expert and it arrived as a consequence of trying something different a number of times until they got it right – it came from personal perseverance.
The way forward will always be likely to generate failures and dead ends. Yet very few people write of “How I failed my way to success.” Thomas Edison is however one person who is quoted as saying “I failed my way to success” and “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Barry Moltz in his book “You need to be a little crazy” says “It is not a question of whether you will fail as an entrepreneur, it is simply a question of when and how.”
So, initial failure is a hallmark of new business success, invention success and the success of being a great sports star. I offer now that to find the secrets to success we should re-visit the mind-set of a new business owner, as part of a regular and definite plan, irrespective of how “old” any business is. This should be done when things are going well, and especially when things are not going so well.
Donald Keough a board member of Coca Cola and holder of many honorary degrees from American universities who wrote “The ten commandments for business failure” actually is one person who has thought about characteristics of business failure. He places “Quit taking risks” as the very first of his commandments for certain disappointment.
So why is risk taking such an important business lesson to learn (and re-learn)? Simply put – No risk is akin to no reward! In business there is a statement known as the Risk/Reward Ratio. This states that “Risk is a natural part of investing, investors need to find their comfort level and build their portfolios and expectations accordingly.” This statement equally applies to every business.
So, if you want more;… more success, more fun, and more wealth, you need to re-learn the value of risk taking. The first step for such behavior change as a business owner requires us to get back into the habit of putting ourselves in uncharted waters. To do things in our business that possibly might end in failure, personal rejection, embarrassment, increased cost and reduced profit… This is not an argument for intentionally embarking upon a catastrophic course of action, nor is it the same as throwing a spare set of clothes into a knapsack and setting out to trek the Andes.
It is however an argument that you should attempt to re- insert a little “uncertainty” into your business. To try something different with the knowledge that the possibility of a “bad” outcome will not be quite as damaging to you personally or professionally as the anticipatory fear predicts it will be. The likelihood of “good” outcomes is amplified.
For example, did you know that banks actually view bad debts as an indicator of success?
Briefly explaining this point – If a lending manager has no bad or doubtful debts, it indicates overly cautious lending practice – an absence of taking risks. Equally, a lending manager who has too many bad and doubtful debts is revealing an overly lax interpretation of lending policy. The goal for a successful bank is to push to the acceptable risk ceiling, but no further.
So, one measurable and definite success secret is “Do something new”, whilst it’s still your choice, before the choices are made for you.
HERE ARE A COUPLE OF THOUGHTS THAT WILL MAKE THE STEP LESS STRESSFUL:
Thought 1 – Celebrate your wins.
A well known Australian speaker Bruce Sullivan – refers to the fact that people avoid risk in part due to their linking personal “feel good” to results or outcomes, rather than to action. One observable characteristic that all successful business owners possess is their determination to see the positive outcome from any event. So, find some recent action you took that compelled you to take a risk. Then celebrate and feel good about the fact that you did just that. The feel good emotion from the activity may be something that is missing in your business day. Go and do it again.
Thought 2 – Risk a few hours per week to work with the longer term in mind.
Simply put; routine is the killer of business. If you do the same thing this year as you did last year – you will get the same results. Today, your business finances may be fragile, managing may be tougher than ever before, you may not know what to do in response to the pressure you confront. I say “Don’t first turn to the secrets of industry experts!” They are not your savior!
Undertaking to do something different tomorrow should be your first action; choosing to get comfortable with taking frequent small risky steps is the best and most profitable start to resolving business problems.
This is exactly what new businesses do, the owners expect to be confronted with new problems to solve, unanticipated issues to grapple with and challenges that need to be met. The energy and willingness to meet head-on all the problems that might occur, does seem to diminish over time in less successful businesses and that’s the problem – not because the secrets of business success elude them.
Go to a customer’s place of work, or do a leaflet drop or to have lunch away from your workspace – or listen to a business owner who has ceased dealing with your business.
Risk a few moments and possible rejection on a conversation with that dissatisfied client. You might earn their respect, which you absolutely cannot do if you hide from them.
Risk looking hungry for work.
Risk revenue by proposing a better solution to a client who might want something a little different.
Do not equate these steps with recklessness and or stupidity. You might fail, but you will gain knowledge and experience from the risk taking practice you undertake. You will be learning from the experience.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the Writer. The information is not meant to be exhaustive. Readers are responsible for making their own inquiries and assessments as to the truth and accuracy of all the information given and should seek advice from professionals. No liability (in contract, tort or otherwise) will be accepted for any loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance upon any material contained in this publication or any information or advice provided in this publication or incorporated in it.