“Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.” – George S. Patton
One of the more frustrating (and common) things I hear from business owners thinking about their future is “I’m not sure”. It’s usually said in the context of “We better not do anything differently than we’re doing it now because I’m not sure” how it will turn out, if the market will change the way we think it will, if our customers will change, etc. So because “I’m not sure”, we just won’t make any changes to how we do things.
I want to shake those people and say, “Of course you’re not sure! Nobody’s sure!” People might be supremely confident in their ability to predict the future, but nobody’s ever really sure, mostly because there are more than 7 billion other people on Earth that you can’t control who are going to have some input.
So stop worrying about being sure. You never will be. Start thinking about taking calculated risks. The first step to taking calculated risks is doing some calculating. Here are some things to put into the equation:
What do you think your industry will look like? Think about 5-10 years from now. Will business in your industry be more specialized than they are today? Or will they be a place for one-stop shopping? What impact will technology have on your industry? It’s possible the way you produce or deliver your product will be completely obsolete in 10 years. What might that look like?
What barriers will you face? If your business struggles over the next 5-10 years, what is most likely to be the cause? If you fail to reach your goals, why would that be? Think about competitors. Think about people. Who might cause you to fail?
What will your customers look like? Too many businesses keep trying to sell things to people who don’t exist anymore. Your customers will change. It’s a certainty – you can’t stop it. So what will those customers value in 5-10 years? How will those customers want to buy your product? Why should they want to?
Leading an organization isn’t about risk avoidance. It’s about taking risk. Whether you mean to or not, you’re taking risk. Every day you open for business, you’re taking a risk. You can either choose to take calculated risks or you can let uncalculated risks choose you. I know which option sounds better to me.