As an entrepreneur, I’m no stranger to risk. In fact, I love it. I actively go looking for it. Because where there’s risk there’s reward. Sometimes massively so. My philosophy has always been to understand the context, mitigate the risk and believe in what you’re doing.
Like 30-year old Alex Honnold. This kid is currently taking the climbing world by storm with his free soloing exploits. No rope, no safety gear. Just a bag of chalk and balls the size of Nebraska.
Nick Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro, likened entrepreneurs to free solo climbers. He said risks always seem more risky to those on the outside. Those of us in the thick of it are generally not delusional fantasists expecting an easy ride. No. Real entrepreneurs, like free soloists, have the self-confidence to draw upon their experience and make things happen.
But that’s not saying a fair few won’t still get spattered on the valley floor. Figuratively speaking, of course.
I’ve been there myself. Some ventures fail, it’s inevitable. The trick is to get back on the wall having understood why you came off it. A sports psychologist mate of mine teaches the mantra Fail Forward Fast. When your world comes crashing down, don’t wallow in self-pity. Use the experience positively; learn from it and correct what went wrong.
But do it fast, and don’t become overwhelmed in post-mortems and ‘blamestorming’. This is the time for self-awareness, not self-flagellation.
Steve Case knows what I’m talking about. He was the founder of AOL and is worth $1.36 Billion.
Yes folks, that’s a ‘B’ not an ‘M’.
AOL was the first internet company on the stock market and floated in 1992 with a market value of just $70 Million. A decade later it was worth $150 Billion and was the world’s fastest value creator for that whole decade.
So how did he do it? It’s no good having blind faith in an idea if it simply doesn’t make sense. And you can’t expect that idea to just develop on its own. You’ve got to constantly reassess it, to make sure it’s still valid in the marketplace and in the world. When AOL started, sure, a lot of people had computers. But owning a modem and connecting to other people? That was the stuff of techy nerds and spotty-faced sunlight dodgers.
But Steve Case knew that the internet was an idea that simply had to happen to the world. And that we’d love it. So he ploughed on, testing and adjusting as he went.
But just having a great idea is only half the battle. The execution has to be spot on too. Thomas Edison said vision without execution is hallucination, and he’s as right today as he was when he had his light bulb moment in 1882.
If you can’t think to the finish and visualise where you need to go, you’re stuffed. But when it comes to how to get there my advice is this: don’t insist on being right all of the time. There are too many imponderables in business and you’ll bankrupt yourself trying to cover every eventuality.
Better to have a workable plan that’s flexible enough so that when the real threats or opportunities present themselves, you can quickly shift your operation accordingly. That way you’re always nimble, agile and ahead of the danger.