Why Risk It?

heatherblogWe’ve heard about the fearless entrepreneur who, with hardly a thought, starts a business, risks everything, and is an overnight success. Does starting a business really work this way? Do all highly successful entrepreneurs risk it all and either make it big or go broke?

According to Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of “Originals, How Non-Conformists Move the World”, most entrepreneurs do NOT go in with guns blazing. In fact, there are many successful entrepreneurs who play it safe, don’t bet the farm, and hold a job or remain in school while starting their enterprise.

According to Grant, entrepreneurs tend to have original ideas that poke a hole in the status quo. The founders of Warby Parker are prime examples. They were university students who needed new glasses but couldn’t afford the ones on the market. Their idea was to sell eyeglasses online for the low price of $95. With every purchase, they would donate a pair to a person in a developing country. When they mentioned their idea to friends, they were blasted with criticism and told no one would buy eyeglasses online. They went for it anyway and hit their one year target in less than a month. In 2015 Warby Parker was named the world’s most innovative company.

Successful entrepreneurs are described as “Originals” in the book but are not necessarily first to market. In fact, 47% of first to market business owners fail, while 8% of so-called “improvers” fail. The theory: you don’t have to be first you need to be different and better.

Grant also discusses the need to constantly look for ways to improve our ideas. Generally, our first 15 to 20 ideas are worthless because they are too close to conventional thinking. His recommendation: scrutinize your ideas, doubt their success, and run them by disagreeable people who will give you uncensored feedback.

Finally continue to have lots of bad ideas. The numbers suggest that the likelihood of finding the right idea increases with a greater volume of ideas you generate. “Originals” overcome mediocrity by making as many attempts as possible. It was comforting to learn that they are just as afraid as we are, but what makes them different is their fear of failing to try.

The findings in the Carleton, BMO and The Beacon Agency Release Report on Risk Appetite of Female Entrepreneurs supports some of these findings. Women are capturing a larger share of their market through innovation, are making thoughtful decisions that require risk to grow their business, and are taking a longer-term approach. Their impressive 20% revenue growth demonstrates that the time and thought women put into making sound business decisions about risk and growth is paying dividends. They take the time to gather the information they need before forging ahead.

Closing thought: you don’t need to be a dare devil to be successful in business. There are many reasons to take your time and play it safe. Give yourself time to think and analyze your ideas, gather information, get feedback from your Business Advisor at WECM, and wait for the right time to act. Why risk it!

– Heather Stephens