To Be In Business Is To Get In Bed With Risk

Entrepreneurs are a special breed.
They say we're stubborn, reckless, dreamers.
But what they don't know?

It's the stubbornness that keeps us going when the odds are stacked against us.  And everyone (including a mass of opinionated strangers on the internet) says our business won't make it.  It's determination that drives us to push past 9 - 5 and make it happen anyway.

It's the risk-taking that got us out of the cubicle life.  We risked living life on our own terms, knowing it might not work out.  Knowing it would be harder than sticking to the safe, worn out paths that the majority stumble blindly down every day.

It's the dreamers who have the creativity and courage to ask the right questions.  To make something out of nothing.  And to make things better not just for ourselves but everyone else too.  It's the dreamers who find solutions.

This is for all the determined, risk-taking dreamers.

I've spent the last 4 weeks talking about the anatomy of an entrepreneur because I read this article on Gallup that said successful entrepreneurs needed these 10 "rare" talents.  And I had an opinion about that.  

But this week I wrote 3 blog posts none of them the one I was supposed to be writing.  Which says to me I'm done with that topic.  Still, I don't want to leave it unfinished.  I hate when I follow I blog and they say they're going to write about something and don't.  The last 2 talents are relationship building and risk-taking.  You can click on those links and see what Gallup says about those skills.

I DO want to talk about the risks of entrepreneurship though, but in a completely different way. 

Entrepreneurship is inherently risky and if we didn't all have a bit of a rebel heart thumping wildly in our chests we'd never do it.  Being the boss is all the freedom you've dreamed of but it's also terrifying.  Most people don't want the responsibility.  They want the flexibility, rewards when everything goes great (which lasts about a millisecond) and the right to call the shots.

But they don't want the uncertainty, the risk, the reality that whether it succeeds or fails is ultimately ALL UP TO YOU.  They don't want to hustle every day.  They don't want to spend every waking moment and every spare brain cell trying to find a way to make it work.  To do it better.  To learn to separate your mistakes from your oh-so-fragile ego.

That's why they chose the paycheck.  And that's why they chose to work for "the man".  And that's why they'll always be secretly jealous you had the balls to do it differently.

Because entrepreneurship is risky.  Here are a few things they won't be so jealous of...

YOU RISK YOUR MONEY - Especially when you're first starting out.  The leap from steady paycheck to...feast and famine can be terrifying.  It's one of the main reasons people don't start their own businesses.  And it's a bitch to budget for.

If you're selling actual, physical products and have things like manufacturing costs, inventory and overhead to consider?  You have my deepest respect.  There's a reason I sell digital products.  Until you're established (and this can take a couple of years) financial risks are just part of the game.

YOU RISK GETTING SUED - Opening a business makes you vulnerable for more kinds of liability.  Depending, of course, on the type of business you have.  People might want to sue you if things go wrong.  And their threshold for what's "lawsuit worthy" might be a lot lower than yours.  I humbly suggest adopting a policy we used when I worked for a bank.  You might be familiar with it - it's called CYOB (cover your own butt).  And get the legal advice you need.

YOU RISK HEALTH AND SANITY - Thought you worked long, weird hours before?  Wait 'til that deadline comes and it's your professional reputation on the line.  You'll wish for intravenous caffeine.

And those glorious hours when you're NOT working and you get to cozy up with friends and family...or relax?  Some small part of your brain is still thinking about the business.

Plus, there's the insane pressure of everything riding on YOU.  Yes, you signed up for this - willingly, gleefully even, but that doesn't mean you aren't going to have days when you'll also want to curl up in a ball and sob about it too.  Privately though, public sobbing tends to freak people out.

Your self-esteem: you'll look at all the other people who are doing it better, earning more or seem to have mastered that elusive work/life balance and you self-esteem will plummet  (to somewhere around the region of your pinky toe).

Until you land that client or make that sales goal.  And discover that people love what YOU do. Then suddenly your self-esteem is back, bobbing around your navel again.

Every decision you make is a risk.  But when you're the boss you STILL have to make them.  Maybe you have the luxury of input from your team, maybe not.  But every decision and the consequences of it, are all on you.  And there will be hundreds of tiny decisions (and a few big ones) every day.  That's a lot of pressure...but you STILL have to make them.

 You need to get comfortable with risk.  Invited it to bed, cuddle up close and make it work for you.

Risk thinking outside the box.  Get playful.  Challenge the status quo.  Get risky with your creativity.  Your products.  Your prices.  Get risky with what you're offering your clients and ask yourself - how can I do it differently?  After all, this is your business and you can shape it any way you like.  

Risk making those insanely long hours work for you.  There's no clock to punch.  So, unless you have a brick and mortar business when life pops up you can rearrange it to make it fit.

Instead of always cramming life into the spare cracks of time left after work.  Example: when your daughter's kindergarten class opts to do different 15 minute Christmas plays every day for 3 weeks at 11:30 am (WTF?) instead of one big concert.  You can at least sneak out to see a few of them.

You'll learn to take calculated risks.  And whenever possible make risk work for you.  As entrepreneurs, we don't go "all in" with every move we make.  But try to minimize the bad risk as much as possible.

Here's the thing - you're going to make mistakes.  Sometimes you're going to fail.  I know, I spent my entire school career deathly afraid of that word.  Now, I'm also making friends with the idea of failure - albeit reluctantly.  As long as you're managing risk effectively you'll live to create and serve your customer's another day.

You'll shake off that failure, that criticism, that heartbreaking flop.  Use it to build your strategy moving forward.  Shoulder all the uncertainty of entrepreneurship and start again.

Because when you get it right?  It's worth every.  agonizing.  second.