Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Running a business is all about risk. Faint heart never won fair lady, and no-one ever made a fortune or succeeded without taking risks. When you put a new product on the market, offer a new service or go into competition with established business giants, you’re taking a significant risk. Two things drive you: you think it’s worth it, and you think that you have a pretty good chance of pulling it off.
Risk-taking isn’t just for entrepreneurs however. If you want to progress in your business career then you also need to be prepared to take risks. It’s sometimes possible to stay in a comfortable berth forever, accepting statutory promotions and serving your time, but in a way even that is a risk. You run the risk of being frustrated, bored and unsatisfied. You also run the risk of being made redundant because even that comfortable secure job may one day not exist, or may be taken from you by someone who is more ambitious, more dynamic and, yes, more of a risk-taker.
It’s said that you will always regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did, and to try and fail is better than not trying at all. This doesn’t mean simply taking a leap in the dark however. Successful business people aren’t reckless: they take calculated risks.
Be very clear about what the risks are before you make any move. Look at what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. Consider the factors that could influence the outcome, and try to reduce the level of risk as much as possible. Make it more likely that you will succeed, but also accept the possibility of failure.
Make friends with failure
It’s important that you know what the worst that could happen is and can cope with that eventuality. If failure means a situation that is untenable then you might want to think twice. For instance, if the worst that can happen is that you lose your job, is that okay? Do you have savings to tide you over, or can you deal with the level of debt you might incur? Are you likely to lose your home? You can always get another job if you have qualifications and experience: the role that you previously held wasn’t a fluke. But if you might end up homeless with insurmountable debts then the risk may not be worth taking in the first place.
Reasons to take risks
There are a few questions you should ask yourself if you’re wondering whether it’s worth moving out of your comfort zone. Have you reached a dead end? Do you need to jump ship in order to keep challenging yourself and moving forward? Are you earning the best salary for the work you do, or the work you’re capable of?
Sometimes we need to keep moving on to avoid stagnation, even if it seems like we’re already at the top of our game. Charles Phillips was the president of Oracle Corporation for over seven years, during which time he took the multinational technology firm from strength to strength. But when he saw the opportunity to quit and take over as CEO of cloud-based software provider Infor he knew that it was the right decision for him, despite being seen as a risky move. Today Infor is the largest privately held technology provider in the world and provides industry-specific software to over 75,000 companies worldwide.
Take risks early on
Risk-taking isn’t just for CEOs and high-powered business leaders. Even if you’re just starting out on your career there are risks that are worth taking, and that could help you progress. If you can see how things could be improved in your workplace, or how a problem could be fixed, don’t be afraid to make a suggestion to your manager. Don’t be afraid to volunteer for those jobs that no-one else wants to do. When you do get offered a better job or a promotion, be prepared to negotiate so that you get the best deal possible.
Of course there are some risks that you shouldn’t take. They include doing something that you know is unethical or illegal. You should also refrain from quitting your job just because you’ve had a bad day. Don’t act on impulse: if there’s a problem, work out what it is and how you can most productively solve it. Always consult with your family before taking any risks that might also affect them.
Risks are synonymous with opportunity. The world and the market don’t stand still, and so business can’t afford to either. Doing nothing is often a bad risk, and you should always seize a chance to better yourself, learn something new and to keep growing.