To succeed in business today, you have to take risks. You need to step out of the norm and try something new or unusual to stand out and make your customers take notice. At the same time, however, you don’t want to do something that is “risky” or unwise. In other words, you need to balance the benefits of taking the risk (the possibility of success) with the negative aspects of any risk (the potential for failure).
Think of risk as a juggling routine. Every time a juggler throws something in the air, he or she might not catch it. But in order to wow their audiences, jugglers must add new and exciting items to their repertoire. So, while not juggling chainsaws and flaming torches would certainly be safer, jugglers have to take the risk and juggle such items in order to be different and rise to the top of their profession. The same applies to you.
Even though you may not be juggling razor sharp daggers, your business risks may be just as dangerous. To minimize the negatives inherent in any risk, consider the following tips.
Prepare for risk
If you’re going to try something new, do your homework and make sure your skills are up to par. For example, if you’re launching a new sales campaign that depends on skilled salespeople making face-to-face visits, but you don’t have anyone on your team who is great at in-person sales, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. That’s why you need to do a thorough analysis of your company’s, or your own, attributes prior to launching the new initiative. Research the situation, the client, the market and everything else that might help you prepare.
Preparation could also involve reading books, taking classes, or role-playing to hone your skills. Do whatever you must to become an expert in the risk’s topic. That way, when you throw that ball in the air, you’re prepared to catch it.
Also, have a few contingency plans. Detail what negatives could result from the risk. If any of those should happen, what would you do? If you’ve ever watched a good juggling routine, you’ll notice that when the jugglers drop something, they always have a funny line to say that makes the audience laugh and takes the attention away from the dropped item. Those funny lines usually aren’t improvised. They’re planned out in advance so the juggler gets the most reward from the situation.
While preparation is certainly important, be careful not to get stuck in “prep mode.” Realize that if you prepare too long or wait until everything seems perfect, then chances are that you’re never going to take action. Or, if you are that safely prepared, maybe you’re not stretching your abilities enough and the thing you’re preparing is not as exciting or dynamic as it could be.
When jugglers perform a new routine in front of an audience for the first time, they never feel as if they’ve prepared enough. So even though they take all the basic safety precautions, they’re never going to be totally comfortable performing something on stage until after they actually do it a few dozen times.
Fortunately, you learn a lot from “performing early.” You discover which elements are working and which aren’t, and then you can decide what you really need to do to make the situation better or minimize the risk. For example, even though you think you have rehearsed the perfect sales pitch, word for word, once you’re actually in front of a live prospect, your sales talk may take a very different direction, depending on the interaction with that person. So, while you have to prepare as well as you can, you also have to realize that things could go differently than you expect.
If you feel yourself getting stuck in “prep mode,” stop, assess the situation, and tell yourself that it’s virtually impossible to get in a total comfort zone with the new endeavor until you actually take the plunge. You usually have to take the plunge while you still have some butterflies in your stomach.
When jugglers have a routine they’re nervous about, they often “sandwich” the new material in between two other routines that they know are strong. You can do something similar.
When you take action on your risk, piggyback the new item on something your company does well. Keep your company’s strengths in the forefront so that if something doesn’t go well with the new initiative, you can always shift the focus back to what you know works. For example, if you’re suggesting a new product, don’t ignore your current best sellers. Keep the successful products in the limelight while you encourage the new promotion on the coattails of successful ones. If the new product flops and your risk doesn’t pan out, you still have the fanfare of your successful ideas in your customers’ minds.
Constantly analyze progress
Both during and after your new venture, you need to analyze the situation. What worked? What didn’t work? What met your expectations? What surprised you? Knowing what you know now, what could you have done differently? What feedback are outsiders giving you? Often people outside the risk see it very differently than you, so be sure to get their opinion on your progress.
If jugglers are dropping things on stage, they know they have a problem (and so does everyone else). What does a problem look like in your risk scenario? Any risk requires constant analytical process during and after the event. You have to be conscious of every move, and track your progress the entire time. Once the risk event is over, you need to discuss what happened with others involved and talk about any surprises – both good and bad. Only then can you learn from your risk, fine-tune your process and reap the full rewards of stepping out and trying something new.
Throw your chainsaw
The most important thing about risk is simply being willing to take one.
Think about it … if everyone were to operate in their safety zone, there wouldn’t be amazing accomplishments and advances in the world. Additionally, doing things that are creative, different and interesting is a lot more fun than playing it safe. And the potential reward is a lot higher, too. Doing what’s easy is a recipe for mediocrity and boredom.
Those who are willing to try something new, difficult and what others deem crazy, are the ones who make a real difference in the world. So be bold. Take that risk you’ve been thinking about. When you do, you’ll be the one who gets noticed … and who reaps the resulting rewards.
This article was written by Jon Wee and Owen Morse for Corporate Logo Magazine. Reprinted with permission.
Jon Wee and Owen Morse have won five Guinness World Records and the gold medal at the International Jugglers Association team competition. They were finalists on the TV show “America’s Got Talent.” They have worked to improve the teamwork, time management and work-life balance of such corporations as IBM, McDonald’s, Wells Fargo and Forbes. For more information, visit www.passingzone.com.