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Avoiding Risks and Missing Opportunities

December 02, 2013 - Article

Tom PanaggioBy Tom Panaggio

Think you're playing it safe by avoiding risks? You could be missing the opportunity of a lifetime.

When you’re in charge of running a company, it’s easy to convince yourself that playing it safe is the responsible choice.Especially if your business is new, going out on a limb is the last thing you want to do. But risk is needed if you want to do more than just scrape by — and it may be needed just to survive in this economy.

Hoping that sales will get better or that conditions will improve is the wimp’s approach. You can’t wait for everything to be perfect because it never will be. You have to take action — in other words, accept risk and make those things happen.

I know about risk firsthand. Along with several partners, I have created and built two successful companies: Direct Mail Express (DEM), which now employs more than 400 people and is a leading direct marketing company, and Response Mail Express (REM), which was eventually sold to an equity fund, Huron Capital Partners. As those companies have adapted to a shifting marketplace and an uncertain economy, I have had to take numerous leaps of faith.

Even with the best attitude and plan, there are times in every business when, as progress slows, confusion sets in. You may feel frozen and afraid that any move you make will be wrong. However, if you don’t want to stagnate, you have to move. Unfortunately, this type of risk is the most difficult one to take. You’ll probably want to find ways to avoid action, which is tantamount to sinking your own ship.

Here are 10 of the most common forms of risk avoidance that may be holding you back.

Excuse #1: “The timing isn’t right." As a young commodities broker right out of college, I received a call from a client named Steve each morning. He was a “prisoner of hope" who always asked the same question, “Where is gold this morning?" When gold was higher than the day before, he’d comment, “Ah, missed it again." If it was trading lower, he said, “Let’s wait and get it at the bottom." Steve missed the biggest increase in gold in more than 50 years because he waited for the exact moment to make a move, and based on his perception, that moment never came.

All over the country, there are entrepreneurs — or wannabe entrepreneurs — who are just like Steve. Business plans sit in boxes or on hard drives as their creators wait for the right conditions: funding, free time, better economic conditions. And plenty of existing businesses remain less successful than their owners would like because those very same owners are hoping that tomorrow conditions will be just a little bit better for advancing their goals.

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