How to Take Risks

As many of the people I have met know I am an avid golfer. Playing golf in this part of the country is primarily a summer sport unless you’re willing to layer up and confront the cold, which I am not. So what do I do in the winter months? This is where many people that I know are not aware of another passion I have. That is playing pool. I have played pool since my teenage years (some would say an ill spent youth) and take it very seriously. I have played every game imaginable on a pool table and constantly seek to increase my skills at the sport. I am constantly reading tips on playing, practicing drills on the table and working at it like a job. Over the years I have become a pretty good player and consider myself a “shooter.” Of course one of the things that comes with playing pool is gambling. It is just expected in the game. Even the pros in billiards look for “action” because being a professional billiard player pays nothing like a professional golfer. The only way to supplement their tournament winnings is to gamble. Why do I bring this up in a business journal? Gambling is risk taking. And in business you need to take risks.

However, how you take risks is important. I’ve seen many a pool player walk in looking to make some money not really knowing what they’re up against and not really on top of their game. Only to walk out a couple of hours later with their tail between their legs and not much cash in their pocket. Of course, I’ve seen business owners being careless and getting in over their heads, not understanding the market, not setting goals, not having a business plan, only to quit after months of hard work, also with not much cash in their pocket. So how can a business person (and pool player) take the necessary risks but come out on top? Here are some ideas.

Calculated Risks

Be sure you fully understand what the chances of failure are. And what would happen if you fail. Be sure you do your homework. Know what you’re up against. Many people are too optimistic or think they are better than they really are. They fail to assess the possibility of failure. Be honest with yourself. If you can’t take the time to assess what the downside is don’t proceed until you do.

Reduce the Risk

What can you do to reduce your risk? There are many ways to do this. First be sure your skills and knowledge are at the top of whatever you are involved in. You can look to others to help fill in the areas you are weak in. You can share the risk (and profits) with subcontracts to spread the risk out. Of course be sure any written agreements are reviewed by the appropriate people, to ensure risks in minimized. 

What Do Others Say?

Talk to your trusted advisors. What does your accountant, attorney, banker or business coach think of your endeavor? There are plenty of people with loads of experience. Seek their knowledge and tap into their experiences.

Contingency Plan

What will you do if things start to go sideways? You need to have a backup plan. You certainly don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time here but at least identify at what threshold you will implement a backup plan and what you will do.

Comfort Zone

Step out of your comfort zone. It’s a question of balance. You want to take calculated risks but you also don’t want to be held back by your fears. The more you step out of your comfort zone the bigger your comfort zone becomes. You certainly may have some doubts but you can’t be afraid. That will stifle your progress.

Entrepreneurs (and pool players), by their very nature, are greater risk takers than the average person. Understand that taking risks will yield rewards. But you need to proceed with caution. Take smart risks and most often you’ll come out on top.

Now, I’ll call the 8 ball in the corner pocket for the win!!