At a recent Women Entrepreneurs event Rita Beckwith, of City Cruises, talked about the roller coaster journey to building her multi million pound company. One key point she mentioned to her success was ‘risk’. Rita, like many of her peers, has gambled and made some uncertain choices that have paid off along the way to the top but the thought of chancing it all, feeling the fear and doing it anyway always makes me draw breath. Why?
Risk is scary; it implies something bad could happen and should therefore be avoided. Of course we all take risks every day doing things like crossing the road but these semi-conscious actions cannot compare to the life changing decisions that we face only a few times in life. Moving from one job to another, ending a relationship, changing career or starting a new business all carry the possibility of exhilaration but also the possibility of failure. Is it worth giving up what you know for what might be? The rewards can be great but so can the cost. Sadly the days of childlike boldness slowly ebb away as we experience the consequences of taking risks. I think many will agree doubt and fear have a lot to answer for in missed opportunities! By avoiding any kind of risk and remaining in our comfort zones, we slowly shut down our world and run another risk: leading unfulfilled lives.
I must admit I am pretty risk averse, particularly when the stakes are high, but recognise that this resistance to putting myself out there can lead to a monotonous, grey life full of ‘what ifs’, so I push myself. The opposite is those who take risks too easily, running before they can walk with no regard for the costs. But taking major risks without considering the implications on yourself and those around you can be foolish – causing more harm than good.
Compared to some I know I would be viewed as a great risk-taker, but when I take risks I see them as investments in my future. I work with managers in organisations regularly and am astounded at their attitude to risk, they are very cautious even when there’s nothing to lose! Imagine the impact of all of these managers on the organisation, a safe place where no one takes any chances. Is that the type of organisation that grows and develops to meet the needs of the future?
What we need to become effective risk takers is some middle ground; clearly there is some benefit to analysing risks we are about to take as well as becoming more bold and daring. We live in an age of rationalisation and complicated models designed to measure every part of our decision making process but the problem is that uncertainty is sometimes unquantifiable and unpredictable and so the magic formula requires some bravado as well.
By minimizing the risk in a venture you maximise your odds of success. This means being your own risk manager and reducing all the dangers around your choices. For example, starting a business can have minimal risk if you create a solid plan, bide your time, save some money and do your research. With mass redundancies and rising unemployment, becoming a confident, prepared risk taker has never been so crucial. Wouldn’t you rather make things happen than wait for them to happen to you? By taking more risks life can become fuller and exhilarating. Risk takers are opened up to new skills, learn from their mistakes, develop existing talents, become more confident and are in charge of their own destiny.
How could you start taking small calculated risks?
What would you have to do to shift the odds of success in your favour?
Is it really a risk if you have considered every outcome and prepared for it?
What is your attitude to work, that of your team and that of your organisation?
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