Some things scare the pants off me, but most things don’t. You will never see me skydiving, but speaking to an audience of a few thousand people doesn’t cause me a moment’s grief.
We all have phobias. Some are tame and others are crippling. All center around our perception of risk. There are people in this world who never commit to marriage because the fear of loss overwhelms them. Some Hollywood types have been married too often to count. Both groups perceive the risk differently.
Starting and running a business requires risk taking. Not everyone has the natural ability to take business risks. But you can learn to manage and even love risk taking.
Business is risk, and you have to have an appetite for it
If you have aversions to taking risk, but want to start a company anyway, here are some suggestions to minimize the anxiety. They fall into two arenas – mitigating risk (turning big risk into small risks) and learning to love risk itself.
Make sure you have a partner who is not risk averse: A partner who is afraid of risk will cast their fears upon you. If you are learning to take calculated risk, a naysayer will keep you from exploring how to take risks wisely.
Learn to do the Tough Things First: You will face many challenges in business. The bigger ones are those that cause the most fear and will continue to scare you – and thus impede other work – until you resolve them. Learn to “eat the ugly frog first” and tackle the big things every morning. This removes your biggest fears before lunch.
Have enough cash upfront to take you to profitability: Landing a private plane on a runway made for 747’s is boring. There is so much runway, you feel anyone could land a small plane on one. Knowing you have enough money to run your business until the bottom line turns from red to black will help you to sleep better.
Avoid taking on personal debt that encumbers your life and family: No business is worth risking your family’s future. If you go to work each day with that fear weighing on you, your effectiveness will be shot.
Increase risk excitement
Solve riddles: Those problems, big and small, that you face in business are really just puzzles, and puzzles are fun to solve (seriously, check any magazine store and the puzzle book isle is jammed with options). Treat business risks like a game where winning is defined as finding and implementing the best possible solution.
Have a well thought out business plan that addresses the pit falls that will beset you: Your business plan is the first big puzzle to solve (and the Tough Thing First you need to tackle before all others). In it, wisely assess all the ways you think things could go wrong and how you will not let that happen.
Praise people often: Business is about people – vendors, customers, employees. Praise them all, but most importantly your employees. This will keep you cheery and is in its own way exciting. Seeing how this shapes peoples love for the company and its mission is exhilarating.